Large Bird Declines with Increasing Human Pressure in Savanna Woodlands (Burkina Faso)

  • Jean-Marc Thiollay


The impacts of human pressure, habitat changes, and efficiency of conservation measures on the non-passerine bird community were assessed in the Sudanian belt of Burkina Faso. Three regions with increasingly large protected areas and higher conservation status were compared. In each region, natural savanna woodlands were also compared to traditionally cultivated areas. Six groups of diurnal raptors and six groups of other large bird species were counted along 167 5-km transect counts during the dry season. Within savanna woodlands, the only significant and consistent declines from the little disturbed Eastern National Parks to the more populated and exploited Western forest reserves were those of the largest terrestrial game birds (Guinea fowl, Bustard, Ground Hornbill), eagles and vultures, which became virtually extinct in the least protected areas. Although some species groups maintained substantial, if not higher populations in cultivated areas (rollers, non-game terrestrial birds, several raptors), the overall abundance of both raptor and non-raptor species declined markedly (50–65%) from natural savanna woodlands to tree-dotted cultivated and fallow fields. Again large game birds, eagles and vultures were absent from every agricultural areas censused. Yet, all of them were still commonly recorded in the same natural and cultivated areas during surveys I conducted in the same regions from 1968 to 1973. The main factors correlated with large bird extinctions or declines from national parks to mere forest reserves and from natural woodlands to fields were first related to hunting, then to habitat degradation and fragmentation through intensive cattle grazing and wood cutting and extension of cultivated areas.


Bird community Habitat degradation Protected areas Savanna West Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR 5173, Conservation des espèces, Museum National d’Histoire NaturelleParisFrance

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