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Ecological traits influence the current distribution and range of an island endemic bird

Authors

  • Juan Carlos Illera,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Biología Animal (Zoología), Facultad de Biología, Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
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  • Mario Díaz,

    1. Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, Facultad de Ciencias del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, Spain
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  • Manuel Nogales

    1. Island Ecology and Evolution Research Group (IPNA-CSIC), C/Astrofísico Francisco Sánchez, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
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*Juan Carlos Illera, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.
E-mail: j.illera@uea.ac.uk

Abstract

Aim  The aim of this paper is to investigate the causes of the current restricted distribution of a narrow-range endemic bird species, the Canary Islands stonechat, Saxicola dacotiae.

Location  Eastern islands of the Canary Islands archipelago.

Methods  We compared climatic patterns (temperature and rainfall), habitat and microhabitat structure, food availability during a full annual cycle, and the abundance of native avian competitors and predators inside and outside the species’ range. Three study areas, located in similar habitats on nearby islands, were studied: northern Fuerteventura, close to the northern border of the species’ range; southern Lanzarote, 22 km from the nearest site occupied by stonechats; and the Lobos islet, 10 km from the nearest occupied site and 2 km from the coast of Fuerteventura.

Results  The cover of suitable habitats (slopes with high cover of large shrubs, stony fields and ravines) and microhabitats (shrubs and boulders) and the abundance of arthropods during the breeding period of Canary Islands stonechats were lower outside than inside the species’ range. Temperature, rainfall and the abundance of competitors and predators inside and outside the species’ range did not differ significantly.

Main conclusions  Ecological requirements explaining the distribution of the Canary Islands stonechat within its range seem to be the main factor hindering its settlement on nearby islands. Geological and palaeoclimatic processes, as well as past and current human impact, could also have constrained the distribution of this narrow-range endemic bird species.

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