, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 21-32,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 28 Nov 2013

Factors affecting Common Quail’s Coturnix coturnix occurrence in farmland of Poland: is agriculture intensity important?

Abstract

Over the last four decades, the majority of European farmland birds have shown marked population declines attributed to the intensification of agriculture. The Common Quail is a widespread farmland breeder across most of Europe. Its populations have shown marked decline, particularly pronounced at the end of the previous century. Ongoing agriculture intensification may be the factor responsible for the observed declines; however, links between species occurrence and farming intensification have not been addressed so far. We analyzed factors affecting the occurrence of the Quail in Poland using data from 722 1 × 1-km study plots and a set of 22 environmental variables, including proxies for agriculture intensification. Predictors were aggregated using PCAs and related to species presence/absence data using GAMs. The best-supported model of the species’ occurrence included eight variables and was clearly better (AIC weight = 0.54) than other models. Quails preferred open fields, showing high photosynthetic activity in March or June, with rather low precipitation and often at relatively high altitudes (up to 900 m a.s.l.). Importantly, quails were more frequent on plots located in regions with rather high inorganic fertilizer input, and showed no avoidance of areas with a high level of agriculture mechanization. We postulate that singing male quails are attracted to areas with medium or high intensity of agriculture but it may represent a maladaptive habitat choice enhanced by changing agriculture practices and peculiarities of the quail’s breeding strategy. Given the results, the quail cannot be classified as a good indicator of extensive traditional agriculture.