Seasonal changes in habitat selection by a strict forest specialist, the Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Leiopicus medius), at its southwestern boundary: implications for conservation

Abstract

The Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Leiopicus medius) is a strict forest bird whose habitat preferences during the breeding season are well known. However, a lack of information about its habitat selection during the non-breeding season may hamper recommendations for the management and conservation of the species. Here we study habitat selection of this woodpecker at its southwestern boundary range (Izki Natural Park, northern Spain) during the non-breeding season (October–December) by means of a use–availability approach. We also examined seasonal differences in habitat use between the breeding season (April–May) and the non-breeding season. Results of ANOVA and backward-stepwise logistic regression revealed a clear selection of high forest cover, large Pyrenean oaks (Quercus pyrenaica), and presence of dead trees during the non-breeding season. Despite very similar habitat use in both seasons, minor but interesting differences between seasons were observed, with a potential expansion during the non-breeding season into less mature forests (lower forest cover and fewer large trees) with a greater abundance of dead trees. These differences may reflect seasonal changes in the spatial requirements of the species and a decrease in food abundance during autumn–winter. On the basis of these findings, we propose management measures to improve the conservation status of the species in the Iberian Peninsula.

Zusammenfassung

Jahreszeitliche Änderungen in der Habitatwahl bei einem ausgesprochenen Waldspezialisten, dem Mittelspecht ( Leiopicus medius ), an seiner südwestlichen Verbreitungsgrenze: Konsequenzen für seinen Schutz Der Mittelspecht (Leiopicus medius) ist ein reiner Waldvogel, dessen Habitatpräferenzen zur Brutzeit wohlbekannt sind. Allerdings könnte ein Mangel an Informationen über seine Habitatwahl außerhalb der Brutzeit Empfehlungen für Management und Schutz dieser Art erschweren. Hier erforschten wir die Habitatwahl dieser Spechtart an ihrer südwestlichen Verbreitungsgrenze (Izki Naturpark, Nordspanien) außerhalb der Brutzeit (Oktober-Dezember) mittels einer Nutzungs-Verfügbarkeits-Analyse. Außerdem untersuchten wir jahreszeitliche Unterschiede in der Habitatnutzung zwischen Brutzeit (April-Mai) und Nichtbrutzeit. Die Ergebnisse der Varianzanalyse (ANOVA) und der rückwärts gerichteten stufenweisen logistischen Regression ergaben eine deutliche Bevorzugung hoher Waldbedeckung, großer Pyrenäeneichen (Quercus pyrenaica) sowie des Vorhandenseins abgestorbener Bäume außerhalb der Brutsaison. Trotz sehr ähnlicher Habitatnutzung zu beiden Jahreszeiten, ließen sich kleine aber interessante Unterschiede zwischen den Jahreszeiten beobachten, so eine mögliche Ausbreitung in weniger alte Waldbestände (geringere Waldbedeckung und nicht so viele hohe Bäume) mit einer größeren Anzahl abgestorbener Bäume außerhalb der Brutzeit. Diese Unterschiede könnten jahreszeitliche Veränderungen in den räumlichen Ansprüchen der Art sowie ein sinkendes Nahrungsangebot zur Herbst- und Winterzeit widerspiegeln. Basierend auf diesen Ergebnissen schlagen wir Managementmaßnahmen zur Verbesserung des Schutzstatus der Art auf der Iberischen Halbinsel vor.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Consultora de Recursos Naturales S.L. for providing the opportunity to start this study. Alejandro Onrubia contributed with important advice on fieldwork design. The wardens of Izki Natural Park (Arantza Puente, Rosa Martínez, Raúl Arenas and Iñaki Martínez) helped with logistics during autumn–winter surveys, and Francisco Cervantes helped during spring surveys. The Diputación Foral de Álava provided the permissions to sample within the Natural Park. Carlos Ciudad suggested interesting ideas that significantly improved the manuscript. Allison Perry helped with the English. Two anonymous referees considerably improved an early version of the manuscript. Thanks to you all.

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Correspondence to J. Domínguez.

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Communicated by T. Gottschalk.

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Domínguez, J., Carbonell, R. & Ramírez, A. Seasonal changes in habitat selection by a strict forest specialist, the Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Leiopicus medius), at its southwestern boundary: implications for conservation. J Ornithol 158, 459–467 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-016-1415-6

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Keywords

  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker
  • Habitat selection
  • Non-breeding season
  • Mature oaks
  • Quercus pyrenaica
  • Dead trees