Environmental Conservation

Papers

Agricultural practices or game management: which is the key to improve red-legged partridge nesting success in agricultural landscapes?

FABIÁN CASASa1 c1 and JAVIER VIÑUELAa1

a1 Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Ronda de Toledo s/n, 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain

SUMMARY

European agricultural landscapes hold important endangered and game species, which may add socioeconomical and ecological value to the ecosystem, and thus must be considered priority species in any management programme integrating agriculture, hunting and conservation. Patterns of red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) nesting habitat selection and nesting success provide information for the implementation of these kinds of programmes in agrarian pseudosteppes. Nests occur mainly in cereal grain fields, although this habitat type was overall negatively selected and had the lowest nesting success. Only lindes (herbaceous strips among fields) were positively selected, and were also the habitat type with the highest nesting success. Nests within cereal grain fields were positively selected close to the field margins (mostly < 5 m). Agricultural practices, particularly harvesting, were the main cause of nest failure. Changes in agricultural practices would be a more effective means of increasing nesting success than predator control. Partridge breeding success may be improved by better management of agricultural areas, increasing the availability of lindes and slightly delaying cereal harvesting. These data may have implications for other endangered steppe-birds with similar nesting habitat, and may provide the basis for effective and successful collaborative programmes between hunters and conservationists.

(Received September 01 2009)

(Accepted February 23 2010)

(Online publication May 12 2010)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Dr Fabián Casas Fax: +34 926 295451 e-mail: fabian.casas@uclm.es