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Breeding productivity, nest-site selection and conservation needs of the endemic Turkestan Ground-jay Podoces panderi

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Abstract

The Turkestan Ground-jay Podoces panderi, a corvid endemic to the deserts of Central Asia, is both understudied and under-protected. Using standardised nest-monitoring protocols and nest cameras, we estimated its breeding productivity for the first time as 0.586 fledglings per nesting attempt (inter-quartile range, IQR 0.413‒0.734), strongly constrained by a diverse set of predator species (accounting for 88% of failures), supporting the broad pattern that a wide spectrum of nest predators operate in arid environments. The probability of nest success for the 35 days from the start of incubation to fledging was low, 0.186 ± 0.06 se (N = 37), with no influence of season date, nest height or nest shrub species. However, pervasive shrub harvest severely limited availability of taller shrubs for nest-site selection, and thus our ability to detect any effect of height on nest survival. Mean clutch size was 4.8 ± 0.8 sd while hatching probability of an egg from a clutch surviving incubation was 0.800 ± 0.050 se and fledging probability was 0.824 ± 0.093 se for individual chicks in successful nests (i.e. that fledged one or more chicks). Two shrub genera, saxaul Haloxylon spp. and Calligonum spp., were used for nesting more frequently than expected (χ152 = 784.02, P < 0.001), highlighting their importance to breeding habitat suitability. This near-sole reliance on these taller shrub genera, both targeted for illegal cutting, indicates that habitat degradation may lead to increased predation and declines in productivity. Habitat conservation is, therefore, likely to be the most important management strategy for the species and other components of desert systems, as management of so diverse a set of nest predators would be both impractical and inappropriate.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175-1183
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Volume161
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
Peer-reviewedYes

Keywords

    Research areas

  • Kyzylkum desert, nest success, fledging success, nest predation, Saxaul Ground-jay, Pander’s Ground-jay, Nest predation, Fledging success, Nest success

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