Journal of Ornithology

, 150:133 | Cite as

Mortality of Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus chicks in wet grasslands: influence of predation and agriculture

  • Hans Schekkerman
  • Wolf Teunissen
  • Ernst Oosterveld
Original Article

Abstract

Grassland-breeding shorebirds show widespread declines due to a reduction in breeding productivity following agricultural intensification. However, there is also concern that increasing predation causes further declines or precludes population recovery. Predation may itself be enhanced by agriculture through changes in habitat or food availability, but little is known about the mortality of nidifugous shorebird chicks. We studied mortality by radio-tagging 662 chicks of Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus in 15 farmland sites in the Netherlands. Tagging and handling had no effect on the condition and survival of godwit chicks, but body condition was reduced by 6–11% in lapwing chicks wearing a tag for longer than 3 days. Fledging success was 0–24% in both species. Mortality was highest in young chicks but remained considerable until after fledging. Losses were traced mostly to predators (70–85%; 15 species, predominantly birds), but at least 5–10% were due to mowing, and 10–20% were due to other causes, including entrapment in ditches and starvation. Chicks staying in fields that were cut before the next radio check were found much more often as mowing victims and somewhat more often as prey remains than chicks in fields not cut, indicating that predation includes a limited amount of scavenging. The predation hazard for godwit chicks was higher in recently cut or grazed fields than in the tall, uncut grasslands they preferred, while that for lapwing chicks was lowest in grazed fields. In godwit chicks, poor body condition increased mortality risk, not only from starvation but also from other causes. Predation on godwit chicks was thus enhanced by intensive farming through a decline in the availability of cover, augmented by a reduced body condition, possibly due to food availability problems. Changes in farming practice may therefore help reduce predation pressure, though the observed interactions explained only part of the high predation rate in godwits and none in lapwings. Predator abundance has increased in Dutch wet grassland regions, and chick predation has become a factor that should be considered in planning the type and location of conservation measures.

Keywords

Agricultural intensification Chick survival Condition Predation Shorebirds 

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Schekkerman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Wolf Teunissen
    • 4
  • Ernst Oosterveld
    • 5
  1. 1.Dutch Centre for Avian Migration and DemographyNetherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)HeterenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.AlterraWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary StudiesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.SOVON Dutch Centre for Field OrnithologyBeek-UbbergenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Altenburg and Wymenga Ecological ConsultantsVeenwoudenThe Netherlands

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