ISSN: 1578-665X | e-ISSN: 2014-928X An international journal devoted to the study and conservation of animal biodiversity, open-access, free for authors, driven by a fast-paced editorial process that includes assessment by experts. It is published twice a year.

Citril finches during the winter: patterns of distribution, the role of pines and implications for the conservation of the species

Borras, A.  Senar, J. C. Alba-Sánchez, F.  López-Sáez, J. A.  Cabrera, J.  Colomer, X.  Cabrera, T. 

Abstract

The Citril finch Serinus citrinella is a Paleartic endemic species that breeds in the subalpine mountain zones of western temperate Europe. The species seems to be suffering a serious decline in its northern range, mainly in the Black Forest and the NE of the Alps. Numerous reasons have been provided for this decline, but all of them have been related to breeding habitats. Given that the species undergoes an altitudinal migration and that during winter it may use very different habitats, a sound knowledge of the distribution patterns and habitats used outside the breeding period is needed to conduct adequate conservation policies and management. This information, however, is largely lacking. The aim of this paper was to determine the current habitat used by Citril finches in north-eastern Spain during the winter, to analyse habitat suitability and to study movements, by investigating the origin of birds that overwinter in Catalonia. Citril finch distribution was modelled using both discriminant analysis and maximum entropy modelling, on the basis of species occurrences during winter in Catalonia (data from 1972-2009). Results showed that the presence of two tree species, Black pine (Pinus nigra subsp. salzmanii) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), both as part of mixed open forests, and the presence of abundant farmland and arvensic plants -the two vegetation units located in a typical submediterranean context, where the warm temperatures (sunny days) in late winter permit the cones to open-, were the ecological and bioclimatic variables that explain the distribution model. All these variables in tandem seem to be the key for the current potential distribution of the Citril finch in winter (AUCscores: training data AUC= 0.955; test data AUC = 0.953). We analyzed recoveries (N = 238) of 2,368 birds ringed at wintering grounds and 12,648 birds ringed at subalpine localities in the adjacent Pyrenees from 1977-2004. We found that in the study area, we recovered ringed birds from many different locations from across the distributional range of the species, including trans-Pyrenean birds from the Alps. This stresses the high mobility of Citril finch populations to reach wintering areas. From a conservation point of view, the high importance of pines (mainly Black pine) for the wintering distribution of the species stresses that any threat on pines, especially forest fires, will have acute detrimental effects for Citril finch populations.

Key words

Citril finch, Wintering, Habitat selection, Habitat suitability, Movements, Conservation, Black pine, Scots pine

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