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Post-fledging habitat selection in a rapidly declining farmland bird, the European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

  • JENNY C. DUNN (a1), ANTONY J. MORRIS (a1) and PHILIP V. GRICE (a2)


Post-fledging survival plays a vital role in the dynamics of bird populations and yet is the least-studied avian life-stage. Habitat requirements post-fledging may have important implications for behaviour and survival, especially for declining populations in landscapes that have undergone wide-scale anthropogenic modification, resulting in an altered distribution and composition of habitats. The European Turtle Dove is a widespread but rapidly declining species both within the UK and across Europe. Reduced seed food availability is thought to influence breeding success of this species, but it is not known whether post-fledging survival may also be influenced by seed availability. Here, we use leg-ring radio-tag attachments to monitor post-fledging survival and movements in 15 Turtle Dove nestlings from eight nests monitored during 2014 as part of a wider autecological study. Fledglings remained in close proximity to their nest for three weeks post-tagging, spending more than half their time in the immediate vicinity (within ∼20 m) of the nest. 95% of foraging trips during this period were within 329 m of the nest and fledglings selected seed-rich habitat (semi-natural grassland, low-intensity grazing, fallow and quarries). Fledglings that were heavier and in better body condition at seven days old were more likely to survive for 30 days post-fledging, and the proportion of available seed-rich habitat was a strong predictor of nestling weight and condition at seven days old. Whilst our sample size is modest, this study highlights the crucial role of food availability in juvenile survival, both while adults are feeding nestlings, and to recently fledged young, and the potential for agri-environment schemes providing foraging and nesting habitats in close proximity to provide important benefits.


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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
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