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Behavioural ecology and choice of foraging sites by male great snipes (gallinago media) outside the leks: implications for conservation management

Doré, Amandine (2019) BIOM02 20182
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Formerly widely distributed throughout Europe, the great snipe (Gallinago media) – a medium-sized wader species – has experienced an important decline in the last century, mainly driven by habitat loss. Remaining population are now restricted to eastern Europe and Scandinavia and the species is considered endangered. The great snipe (Gallinago media) is a food specialist, feeding almost exclusively on earthworms. Understanding habitat requirements for foraging sites is important to ensure efficient conservation actions. In this study, I aimed at assessing habitat requirements linked to feeding sites in male great snipes in central Sweden and comparing them with previous findings. I also intended to provide insights about male foraging... (More)
Formerly widely distributed throughout Europe, the great snipe (Gallinago media) – a medium-sized wader species – has experienced an important decline in the last century, mainly driven by habitat loss. Remaining population are now restricted to eastern Europe and Scandinavia and the species is considered endangered. The great snipe (Gallinago media) is a food specialist, feeding almost exclusively on earthworms. Understanding habitat requirements for foraging sites is important to ensure efficient conservation actions. In this study, I aimed at assessing habitat requirements linked to feeding sites in male great snipes in central Sweden and comparing them with previous findings. I also intended to provide insights about male foraging behaviour and mobility around the lek, an aspect that had not been investigated before. Results from the habitat study tended to support previous findings about the importance of earthworm density in feeding site choice, as well preference for an intermediate vegetation cover. However, lack of more specific patterns at local and fine scale possibly indicated that habitat selection might happen at a larger scale. Spatial analysis of snipes’ movements around the lek revealed that the birds usually forage in a given area of about 20–150m diameter. Foraging distances depended on which lek bird belong to – and most likely on earthworm availability – but did not exceed 1000m normally. Different strategies among lek and among individual were observed, with some birds preferring using the same one of two areas during the whole breeding season while other were changing location every few days. Local and fine scale parameters are likely to be important for great snipes, however as long as clearer patterns are not shown, protecting large portion of suitable habitat at landscape scale will be the most efficient measure to preserve existing populations. In Scandinavia, monitoring habitat changes in the following years will be essential, as elevation of the tree line due to global warming is likely to lead to habitat loss. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Behavioural ecology and choice of foraging sites by Great snipes

The Great snipe (Gallinago media) is a medium-sized wader found in eastern Europe and Russia, as well as in the Scandinavian mountain range. Formerly widely distributed throughout Europe, the species has undergone a strong decline since the end of the 19th century and is now classified as a near-threatened species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The Great snipe is a lekking species which means that during the breeding season, males gather in arenas (“leks”) at night in which they hold small territories and compete against each other to attract females. To sustain this intense activity, they need abundant food resources in close proximity to... (More)
Behavioural ecology and choice of foraging sites by Great snipes

The Great snipe (Gallinago media) is a medium-sized wader found in eastern Europe and Russia, as well as in the Scandinavian mountain range. Formerly widely distributed throughout Europe, the species has undergone a strong decline since the end of the 19th century and is now classified as a near-threatened species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The Great snipe is a lekking species which means that during the breeding season, males gather in arenas (“leks”) at night in which they hold small territories and compete against each other to attract females. To sustain this intense activity, they need abundant food resources in close proximity to the leks, especially a large supply of earthworms which constitute most of their diet. Understanding habitat requirements and foraging behaviour of Great snipes is key to the conservation of the species.

For the purpose of this study, Great snipe males from different leks were equipped with GPS loggers allowing us to precisely track their movements around the display arenas and establish the locations of foraging areas used by the birds. An extensive sampling of these foraging areas was carried out to establish which criteria (e.g. vegetation type, soil characteristics, etc.) were important for Great snipes. Foraging patterns and mobility around the lek were also investigated to improve our knowledge of the ecology of this secretive wader.
Foraging habitat choice
Results from the foraging habitat study tended to support previous findings about the importance of earthworm density in feeding site choice. A preference for an intermediate vegetation cover was also shown and is thought to be linked to predation avoidance. However, lack of more specific patterns could suggest that habitat around the lek is fairly homogeneous and that habitat selection for feeding grounds occurs at a larger scale.

Foraging behaviour and mobility around the lek
Spatial analysis of snipes’ movements around the lek revealed that the birds usually use one foraging area per day, sometimes two but rarely more. These foraging areas had a diameter of between 20 and 150m. Foraging distances from the lek depended on which lek a bird belonged to – and most likely on earthworm availability – but did not usually exceed 1000m. Different strategies among leks and among individuals were observed. Some birds used only one or two areas during the whole breeding season while others changed locations every few days

Implication for conservation
Local and fine scale parameters are likely to be important for Great snipes, however as long as clearer patterns are not shown, protecting large portions of suitable habitat will be the most efficient measure to preserve existing populations. In Scandinavia, improving estimates of the current population size and monitoring habitat changes in the following years will be essential, as elevation of the tree line due to global warming is likely to lead to habitat loss.

Master’s Degree Project in Biology 30 credits 2018-2019
Department of Biology, Lund University

Advisor: Åke Lindström
Department : Biodiversity and Conservation Science (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Doré, Amandine
supervisor
organization
course
BIOM02 20182
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8990324
date added to LUP
2019-07-08 08:42:04
date last changed
2019-07-08 08:42:04
@misc{8990324,
  abstract     = {Formerly widely distributed throughout Europe, the great snipe (Gallinago media) – a medium-sized wader species – has experienced an important decline in the last century, mainly driven by habitat loss. Remaining population are now restricted to eastern Europe and Scandinavia and the species is considered endangered. The great snipe (Gallinago media) is a food specialist, feeding almost exclusively on earthworms. Understanding habitat requirements for foraging sites is important to ensure efficient conservation actions. In this study, I aimed at assessing habitat requirements linked to feeding sites in male great snipes in central Sweden and comparing them with previous findings. I also intended to provide insights about male foraging behaviour and mobility around the lek, an aspect that had not been investigated before. Results from the habitat study tended to support previous findings about the importance of earthworm density in feeding site choice, as well preference for an intermediate vegetation cover. However, lack of more specific patterns at local and fine scale possibly indicated that habitat selection might happen at a larger scale. Spatial analysis of snipes’ movements around the lek revealed that the birds usually forage in a given area of about 20–150m diameter. Foraging distances depended on which lek bird belong to – and most likely on earthworm availability – but did not exceed 1000m normally. Different strategies among lek and among individual were observed, with some birds preferring using the same one of two areas during the whole breeding season while other were changing location every few days. Local and fine scale parameters are likely to be important for great snipes, however as long as clearer patterns are not shown, protecting large portion of suitable habitat at landscape scale will be the most efficient measure to preserve existing populations. In Scandinavia, monitoring habitat changes in the following years will be essential, as elevation of the tree line due to global warming is likely to lead to habitat loss.},
  author       = {Doré, Amandine},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Behavioural ecology and choice of foraging sites by male great snipes (gallinago media) outside the leks: implications for conservation management},
  year         = {2019},
}