Breeding ecology of the globally threatened Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius and the demographic drivers of recent declines

Abstract

We assessed demographic rates and numbers of the globally threatened Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius in central Kazakhstan from 2005 to 2012 to identify drivers of recent declines. Annual fecundity, estimated from a sample of over 1,000 nest histories, was highly variable. Nest survival was higher closer to human settlements, despite higher trampling rates, and when there were more neighbouring nests, but distance to settlements and colony density both varied systematically between years. Both overall nest survival and annual adult survival were on average lower than those estimated for congeneric species elsewhere, although daily chick survival was high. Breeding site fidelity and natal philopatry were low and colonies fluctuated greatly in size between years, making estimation of population trends and survival difficult. Estimates of productivity and survival suggest that the population is in slight to severe decline, with a mean annual estimate of population growth rate (λ) of 0.81 (95 % CL 0.64–0.98). This is reflected in changes in the number of nests found in our core study area, which after 5 years of relative stability declined rapidly after 2010. Of the three demographic rates, adult survival had the greatest influence on λ and only adult survival reached levels necessary for λ to achieve an annual mean of 1 in the absence of a change in any other rate, though only in 1 year. Our results suggest that low adult survival, perhaps resulting from known hunting pressure along the migration routes, is the most critical demographic rate and offers the most tractable conservation solution.

Zusammenfassung

Brutbiologie und demografische Ursachen für den derzeitigen Rückgang des global gefährdeten Steppenkiebitzes Vanellus gregarius

In dieser Arbeit stellen wir Ergebnisse einer Studie zu Brutbiologie und demografischen Parametern des global bedrohten Steppenkiebitzes Vanellus gregarius vor, die zwischen 2005 und 2012 in Zentralkasachstan erhoben wurden. Die Fekundität (Anzahl geschlüpfter Küken pro Weibchen), bestimmt durch eine Analyse von über 1,000 Nestschicksalen, schwankte von Jahr zu Jahr stark. Überlebensraten von Nestern stiegen bei zunehmender Koloniedichte an und waren umso höher, je näher die Nestern an menschlichen Siedlungen lagen (trotz höheren Viehtrittrisikos). Beide Parameter variierten allerdings stark über den betrachteten Zeitraum. Die Überlebenswahrscheinlichkeit von Nestern wie auch von Altvögeln war im Mittel niedriger als bei verwandtschaftlich nahe stehenden Arten, allerdings war die tägliche Überlebenswahrscheinlichkeit von Küken hoch. Brutorttreue von Altvögeln und natale Philopatrie waren niedrig, und die Größe von Brutkolonien fluktuierte stark, daher war die Abschätzung eines Populationstrends und von Überlebenswahrscheinlichkeiten schwierig. Unsere Werte deuten aber auf einen aktuell leichten bis ernsthaften Populationsrückgang hin, und wir schätzen jährliche Zuwachsraten der untersuchten Population (λ) auf 0.81 (95 % CL 0.64–0.98). Dies manifestierte sich auch in einer Abnahme der gefundenen Nester in unserem Kernuntersuchungsgebiet seit 2010 nach fünf Jahren vorhergegangener relativer Stabilität. Die Überlebensrate adulter Vögel hatte von den drei untersuchten demographischen Parametern den stärksten Einfluss auf λ, und nur dieser Faktor erreichte Werte, die bei gleichzeitig unveränderten Überlebenswahrscheinlichkeiten von Nestern und Küken im betreffenden Jahr für Populationsstabilität nötig wären, allerdings nur in einem Jahr. Vielmehr scheinen hohe Altvogelverluste, möglicherweise verursacht durch den bekannt gewordenen hohen Jagddruck entlang der Zugwege, kritisch für das Überleben der Art zu sein—gleichzeitig ist dieser Faktor durch Naturschutzmaßnahmen am ehesten zu beeinflussen.

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Acknowledgments

For help in the field we thank Alexei V. Koshkin, Stephan Goen, Viktoria A. Kovshar, Katie Field, Graeme Ruthven, Dave Fairlamb, Andrew Knight, Andrew Cotton, Paul Eele, John Wills, Andrew Gouldstone, Mark Underhill and the many students from the Universities of Karaganda, Petropavlovsk, Kostanai, Astana, Almaty and Tashkent who joined the field teams as part of a parallel programme of training. For additional support and advice we thank Michael Brombacher, Mark Day, Rhys Green, Norbert Schäffer, Lars Lachmann, Sergey Dereliev, Nigel Collar, Jim Lawrence, Edith Koshkin and Will Cresswell. R.D.S. is particularly grateful to Graham Hirons for allowing him the opportunity to work on this project. For technical advice, we thank Steffen Oppel, Will Peach, Andre Breton, Jen Sharp, Tom Bodey and Graeme Buchanan. Nigel Butcher built the nest cameras. This work was funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative (grant references 15-032, 18-004 and EIDPO035). Additional funding was provided by Swarovski Optik (the BirdLife Species Champion for Sociable Lapwing) through the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme, The Rufford Foundation, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), the German Ornithological Society (DO-G) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). We are grateful to Will Cresswell and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on a previous draft.

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Correspondence to Paul F. Donald.

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Communicated by P. H. Becker.

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Sheldon, R.D., Kamp, J., Koshkin, M.A. et al. Breeding ecology of the globally threatened Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius and the demographic drivers of recent declines. J Ornithol 154, 501–516 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-012-0921-4

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Keywords

  • Steppe ecology
  • Population models
  • Breeding ecology
  • Productivity
  • Mortality