Foraging habitat selection by gull–billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) in Central Spain (Castilla–La Mancha)

Britto, V. O.  Gil–Delgado, J. A.  Gosálvez, R. U.  López–Iborra, G. M.  Velasco, A. 


The gull–billed tern breeds in temporary lakes in Castilla–La Mancha in Central Spain but depends on surrounding land habitats to feed its chicks. It is therefore vital to know the type of environments it selects to capture prey to feed nestlings. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of habitats for hunting by adult gull–billed tern. Of 66 lakes monitored between 1996 and 2016, we found the gull–billed tern used 12 for breeding. Each lake was used during this period for 1–14 breeding seasons. We selected circular areas around the three wetlands where the species bred in 2013 and 2014. Within these circles, we sampled a total of 60 random points and recorded 125 gull–billed tern contacts (including between 1 and 39 birds). We estimated the same environmental variables at contact and random points, including land use and the distance to the nearest wetland, the nearest colony and to several types of anthropic uses (paved roads, houses, and cities). To evaluate habitat selection we calculated the Manly selection index for soil use variables, and fitted linear mixed models to evaluate differences in the distance variables. Land uses selected for foraging by the gull–billed tern were mainly cereal crops, whereas vineyards were avoided. The birds foraged on average up to 2 km from the colonies and tended to avoid proximity of towns and paved roads, suggesting that the species is sensitive to human disturbance. Vineyards are the main land use in this region and the intensity is increasing. Our results suggest vineyards should be limited in areas around these wetlands so that gull–billed terns may forage in their preferred sites.

Key words

Breeding colony, Agricultural landscape, Intensive vineyards, Foraging, Habitat selection, Temporary lake

Reception date: 10 VII 17 | Acceptation date: 15 XII 17 | Publication date: 23 II 18

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Index volum 41.2 (2018)