Seasonal changes in diet and diet selection of great bustards (Otis t. tarda) in north-west Spain

Authors

  • S. J. Lane,

    1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006-Madrid, Spain.
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  • J. C. Alonso,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006-Madrid, Spain.
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  • J. A. Alonso,

    1. Departamento de Biología Animal, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense, 28040-Madrid, Spain.
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  • M. A. Naveso

    1. Departamento de Biología Animal, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense, 28040-Madrid, Spain.
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    • Sociedad Española de Ornitologia, Ctra. de Húmera, 63-1, 28224 Pozuelo, Madrid, Spain


All correspondence to: Juan Carlos Alonso, Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006-Madrid, Spain

Abstract

Faecal analysis was used to study the diet of great bustards in north-west Spain on a monthly basis for 1 year. After correction for differential digestibility, the diet composition by dry weight varied from 48.4% green plant material, 40.9% invertebrates and 10.6% seeds in August, to consisting almost completely of green plant material between December and March. At least 65 plant species were represented in the green plant material, but most occurred rarely and the bulk of this portion of the diet consisted of alfalfa. Eight invertebrate orders were detected in the faeces, of which Coleoptera, Hymenoptera and Orthoptera were most important by numbers. From August to November when seeds were important by dry weight, wheat and barley seeds were found in more faecal pellets than other species. Estimates of use and abundance were obtained to evaluate diet selection in the green plant material and invertebrate components. Alfalfa was strongly selected throughout the year, but grasses were used less often than expected. Coleoptera were always eaten in greater numbers than expected, Orthoptera were used either in proportion to abundance or less often than expected, and Hymenoptera less often in May, more often in September and November, and as expected at other times. The results support the suggestion that increasing alfalfa cultivation would be a useful management tool for maintaining endangered great bustard populations, but further work on the cost-effectiveness of this option is needed.

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