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 SchekkermanEmail author
  • Wolf Teunissen
  • Ernst Oosterveld
Original Article


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.


Agricultural intensification Chick survival Condition Predation Shorebirds 



This work was supported by Natuurmonumenten, Staatsbosbeheer, the Union of Dutch Landscapes, Birdlife Netherlands, Landschapsbeheer Nederland, the provinces of Drenthe, Flevoland, Fryslan, Gelderland, Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant, Overijssel and Zeeland, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality and the Postcode Loterij. Fieldwork was conducted by L. Beskers, K. Bouwman, I. Geelen, P. Heemskerk, Y. van der Heide, B. Henstra, H. de Jong, M. de Jong, A. van Kleunen, M. Kuiper, F. Majoor, G. Müskens, W. Nell, R. Oosterhuis, H.-J. Ottens, K.-P. Plas, T. Meijer, E. Vromans, F. Weijdema and F. Willems. Many farmers and volunteers provided assistance by establishing contacts, providing access to land, finding and monitoring nests and many other ways. Patrick Jansen and Hans-Peter Koelewijn advised on the survival analysis. Rudi Drent and Piet Heemskerk commented on drafts of this paper. Radio-tagging of chicks complied with Dutch law on animal experiments.


  1. Baines D (1990) The roles of predation, food and agricultural practice in determining the breeding success of the Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) on upland grasslands. J Anim Ecol 59:915–929. doi: 10.2307/5022 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beintema AJ (1995) Fledging success of wader chicks, estimated from ringing data. Ringing Migr 16:129–139Google Scholar
  3. Beintema AJ, Visser GH (1989) Growth-parameters in chicks of Charadriiform birds. Ardea 77:169–180Google Scholar
  4. Beintema AJ, Thissen JB, Tensen D, Visser GH (1991) Feeding ecology of Charadriiform chicks in agricultural grassland. Ardea 79:31–43Google Scholar
  5. Beintema AJ, Dunn E, Stroud D (1997) Birds and wet grasslands. In: Pain DJ, Pienkowski MD (eds) Farming and birds in Europe: the common agricultural policy and its implications for bird conservation. Academic, San Diego, pp 269–296Google Scholar
  6. Besbeas P, Freeman SN, Morgan BJT, Catchpole EA (2002) Integrating mark-recapture-recovery and census data to estimate animal abundance and demographic parameters. Biometrics 58:540–547. doi: 10.1111/j.0006-341X.2002.00540.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolton M, Tyler G, Smith K, Bamford R (2007) The impact of predator control on Lapwing Vanellus vanellus breeding success on wet grassland nature reserves. J Appl Ecol 44:534–544. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01288.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Combreau O, Qiao J, Lawrence M, Gao X, Yao J, Yang W et al (2002) Breeding success in a Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis [undulata] macqueenii population on the eastern fringe of the Jungar Basin, People’s Republic of China. Ibis 144:E45–E56. doi: 10.1046/j.1474-919X.2002.00054.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cox DR (1972) Regression models and life tables. J Roy Stat Soc B 34:187–220Google Scholar
  10. Cramp S (ed) (1983) The birds of the western Palearctic, vol 3. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Evans KL (2004) The potential for interactions between predation and habitat change to cause population declines of farmland birds. Ibis 146:1–13. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2004.00231.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Galbraith H (1988) Effects of agriculture on the breeding ecology of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. J Appl Ecol 25:487–503. doi: 10.2307/2403839 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grant MC (2002) Effects of radiotagging on the weight gain and survival of Curlew Numenius arquata chicks. Bird Stud 49:172–176Google Scholar
  14. Grant MC, Orsman C, Easton J, Lodge C, Smith M, Thompson G et al (1999) Breeding success and causes of breeding failure of curlew Numenius arquata in Northern Ireland. J Appl Ecol 36:59–74. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2664.1999.00379.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Green RE (1988) Effects of environmental factors on the timing and success of breeding of Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago (Aves, Scolopacidae). J Appl Ecol 25:79–93. doi: 10.2307/2403611 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green RE (2002) Diagnosing causes of population declines and selecting remedial actions. In: Norris K, Pain DJ (eds) Conserving bird biodiversity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 139–156Google Scholar
  17. Green RE, Hirons GJM, Kirby JS (1990) The effectiveness of nest defense by Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. Ardea 78:405–413Google Scholar
  18. Kaplan EL, Meier P (1958) Nonparametric estimation from incomplete observations. J Am Stat Assoc 53:457–481. doi: 10.2307/2281868 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kenward RE, Robertson PA, Coates AS, Marcström V, Karlbom M (1993) Techniques for radiotagging Pheasant chicks. Bird Stud 40:51–54Google Scholar
  20. Korschgen CE, Kenow KP, Green WL, Johnson DH, Samuel MD, Sileo L (1996) Survival of radiomarked canvasback ducklings in northwestern Minnesota. J Wildl Manage 60:120–132. doi: 10.2307/3802046 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krapu GL, Pietz PJ, Brandt DA, Cox RR (2006) Mallard brood movements, wetland use, and duckling survival during and following a prairie drought. J Wildl Manage 70:1436–1444. doi: 10.2193/0022-541X(2006)70[1436:MBMWUA]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Langgemach T, Bellebaum J (2005) Predation and the conservation of ground-breeding birds in Germany. Vogelwelt 126:259–298Google Scholar
  23. Larson MA, Clark ME, Winterstein SR (2001) Survival of ruffed grouse chicks in northern Michigan. J Wildl Manage 65:880–886. doi: 10.2307/3803037 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miller BJ, Knopf FL (1993) Growth and survival of mountain plovers. J Field Ornithol 64:500–506Google Scholar
  25. Ottvall R (2005) Breeding success and adult survival of Redshank Tringa totanus on coastal meadows in SE Sweden. Ardea 93:225–236Google Scholar
  26. Payne R (2005) The guide to Genstat release 8. Part 2: Statistics. VSN International, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Peach WJ, Thompson PS, Coulson JC (1994) Annual and long-term variation in the survival rates of British Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. J Anim Ecol 63:60–70. doi: 10.2307/5583 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pearce-Higgins JW, Yalden DW (2003) Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria breeding success on a moor managed for shooting Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus. Bird Stud 50:170–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pietz PJ, Krapu GL, Brandt DA, Cox RR (2003) Factors affecting gadwall brood and duckling survival in Prairie Pothole Landscapes. J Wildl Manage 67:564–575. doi: 10.2307/3802714 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ratcliffe N, Schmitt S, Whiffin M (2005) Sink or swim? Viability of a Black-tailed Godwit population in relation to flooding. J Appl Ecol 42:834–843. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2005.01076.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Riley TZ, Clark WR, Ewing DE, Vohs PA (1998) Survival of ring-necked pheasant chicks during brood rearing. J Wildl Manage 62:36–44. doi: 10.2307/3802262 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schekkerman H, Beintema AJ (2007) Abundance of invertebrates and foraging success of Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) chicks in relation to agricultural grassland management. Ardea 95:39–54Google Scholar
  33. Schekkerman H, Müskens G (2000) Produceren Grutto’s Limosa limosa in agrarisch grasland voldoende jongen voor een duurzame populatie? Limosa 73:121–134Google Scholar
  34. Schekkerman H, Visser GH (2001) Prefledging energy requirements in shorebirds: energetic implications of self-feeding precocial development. Auk 118:944–957. doi: 10.1642/0004-8038(2001)118[0944:PERISE]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schekkerman H, Teunissen W, Oosterveld E (2005) Broedsucces van grutto’s bij agrarisch mozaïekbeheer in ‘Nederland Gruttoland’. Alterra-report 1291, Alterra, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  36. Schekkerman H, Teunissen W, Oosterveld E (2008) The effect of ‘mosaic management’ on the demography of Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa on farmland. J Appl Ecol 45:1067–1075. doi: 10.111/j.1365-2664.2008.05106.x Google Scholar
  37. SOVON (2002) Atlas van de Nederlandse broedvogels 1998–2000. Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum Naturalis, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  38. Swennen C (1989) Gull predation upon eider Somateria mollissima ducklings—destruction or elimination of the unfit? Ardea 77:21–45Google Scholar
  39. Teunissen W (2007) Afname van weidevogels versnelt sinds eeuwwisseling. SOVON-nieuws 20:15–17Google Scholar
  40. Teunissen WA, Soldaat LL (2006) Recente aantalsontwikkeling van weidevogels in Nederland. Levende Natuur 107:70–74Google Scholar
  41. Teunissen WA, Schekkerman H, Willems F (2005) Predatie bij weidevogels. SOVON-onderzoeksrapport 2005/11. SOVON, Beek-UbbergenGoogle Scholar
  42. Teunissen W, Schekkerman H, Willems F (2006) Predation on meadow birds in The Netherlands: results of a four-year study. Osnabrucker Naturwiss Mitt 32:137–143Google Scholar
  43. Teunissen W, Schekkerman H, Willems F, Majoor F (2008) Identifying predators of eggs and chicks and their relative importance for the reproductive output of Lapwing Vanellus vanellus and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa in The Netherlands. Ibis (in press). doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919x.2008.00861.x
  44. Thorup O (2006) Breeding waders in Europe 2000. Internat Wader Stud 14. International Wader Study Group, ExeterGoogle Scholar
  45. Vickery JA, Tallowin JR, Feber RE, Asteraki EJ, Atkinson PW, Fuller RJ et al (2001) The management of lowland neutral grasslands in Britain: effects of agricultural practices on birds and their food resources. J Appl Ecol 38:647–664. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2664.2001.00626.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Whittingham MJ, Percival SM, Brown AF (1999) Evaluation of radiotelemetry methods in measuring habitat choice by young Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria chicks. Bird Stud 46:363–368Google Scholar
  47. Wilson AM, Ausden M, Milsom TP (2004) Changes in breeding wader populations on lowland wet grasslands in England and Wales: causes and potential solutions. Ibis 146[Suppl 2]:32–40. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2004.00371.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Schekkerman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • 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

Personalised recommendations