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Species-specific breeding habitat association of declining farmland birds within urban environments: conservation implications

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Human settlements represent important year-round habitats for many declining farmland birds; however, detailed knowledge of species-specific habitat associations is crucial for effective conservation of individual species. In this study, we examined the effect of environmental factors on the occurrence, population density, and habitat associations of three sedentary granivorous farmland bird species (house sparrow Passer domesticus, tree sparrow Passer montanus, and Eurasian collared dove Streptopelia decaocto) during the breeding season within an urban environment and compared the results with a previously published study carried out during winter. To fulfil our aims, we used a comprehensive dataset from a nation-wide monitoring program focused on the studied species in the Czech Republic covering the period 2010–2016 and including a total of 162 human settlements (330.3-km length of transect). House sparrow was the most numerous and common species recorded on the studied transects, followed by tree sparrow and Eurasian collared dove. The population density of house sparrows and Eurasian collared doves was positively correlated with the proportion of farmsteads, and the population density of tree sparrows was positively correlated with proportion of grasslands. The occurrence of house sparrows and Eurasian collared doves increased with higher proportion of buildings and small-scale farms, whereas occurrence of tree sparrows increased with higher proportion of small-scale farms and woody plants. Habitat preference analyses demonstrated that house sparrow and Eurasian collared dove primarily preferred buildings, and tree sparrows preferred small-scale farms. Arable habitats were generally avoided by all studied species. Based on species-specific occurrence and habitat associations, several management measures may be adopted to support declining populations of the studied species, as well as whole bird communities inhabiting urban environments.

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We are grateful for the help to all those volunteers who collected field data which provided material for this study. Stanislav Grill helped with GIS analyses. We also thank to one reviewer and editor for their helpful comments to earlier draft of the manuscript.


This work was supported by the research aim of the Czech Academy of Sciences (RVO 68081766) and by a grant from the Grant Agency of the University of South Bohemia 168/2013/P and 151/2016/P.

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JH, MŠ, and RF were responsible for the study conception and design. JH, JB, MŠ, JR, and many volunteers contributed for the data collection. JH and JB performed GIS analysis. JR and JH performed the data analysis. JH, MŠ, and JR wrote the first manuscript draft. All authors commented on previous versions and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Martin Šálek.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Havlíček, J., Riegert, J., Bandhauerová, J. et al. Species-specific breeding habitat association of declining farmland birds within urban environments: conservation implications. Urban Ecosyst 24, 1259–1270 (2021).

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