Spatial differences in breeding success in the pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta: Effects of habitat on hatching success and chick survival

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I studied the breeding biology of pied avocets Recurvirostra avosetta in natural habitats (alkaline lakes), and in semi-natural sites (dry fishpond, reconstructed wetlands) in Hungary to relate habitat selection patterns to spatial and temporal variation in breeding success. Colonies were initiated earlier in semi-natural sites than in natural habitats, and earlier on islands than on the mainland. Hatching success was higher on islands than on the mainland, in semi-natural sites than in natural habitats, in colonies of at least 15 pairs than in smaller colonies, and for nests initiated earlier than later within a colony. Fledging success was higher in the wet years (1999-2000) than in the dry year (1998), decreased strongly by season in both habitats and increased with average daily temperature in the first week post-hatch in 1999-2000. Most pairs hatching young in semi-natural sites attempted to lead their chicks to feeding areas in natural habitats, whereas no such movement occurred in the opposite direction. Chick mortality due to predation was high during brood movements and only 23% of the pairs moving their young produced fledglings, compared to 43% for pairs remaining in semi-natural sites and 68% for pairs hatching and rearing young in natural habitats (total n=192 broods). These results suggest that semi-natural sites were more suitable for nesting, whereas natural habitats were more suitable for chick-rearing. The opposing trends in habitat-related breeding success between nesting and chick-rearing suggest sub-optimal habitat selection by Pied Avocets due to an incorrect assessment of the potential for successful reproduction of semi-natural sites, which may thus function as ecological traps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-395
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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