Linking territory quality and reproductive success in the Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrochorax: implications for conservation management of an endangered population


*Corresponding author.


As changes in land use have been identified as the main factor explaining the decline in Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrochorax populations across western Europe, a study was carried out in Ouessant (western France) in order to assess the relationship between territory quality and reproductive success. As such an approach could be hindered by the fact that the birds’ reproductive performance could be influenced by their breeding experience, we analysed both inter- and intranest-site variation in fledging success. Territory quality was quantified, combining habitat selection, territory size, the amount of feeding area and distance between nest and feeding area. Feeding habitats selected positively by Red-billed Choughs were characterized by a mean sward height of less than 5 cm. Foraging area was on average 21 557 m2. Feeding areas (i.e. feeding habitat within foraging area) close to the nest were used preferentially. Fledging success appeared to be influenced neither by the total area of feeding sites in a Chough territory, nor by the mean feeding flight distance. However, fledging success adjusted to nest-site and year appeared to be influenced by feeding area close to the nest: one additional fledgling was expected for each additional 10 000 m2 of feeding habitat within 300 m of the nest. These first results allowed us to consider recommending landscape management measures to ensure a favourable conservation status of local Chough populations.