Selection of breeding territory by little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) males in Central Spain: the role of arthropod availability

Oct 25, 2020

The influence of arthropod availability on the formation of male little bustard breeding territories in central Spain was studied in two consecutive years. Arthropods (68,217 individuals) were sampled using pitfall trapping and male territories estimated by means of kernel functions. Hymenopterans (ants), beetles, mites and spiders were the main taxa found in the samples, while the highest contributions in terms of biomass came from hymenopterans, beetles and orthopterans. The only group that exhibited significant biomass differences between territory and non-territory locations was that of the beetles; this pattern was consistent between years. Carabidae was the main beetle family in terms of biomass, followed by other large beetles such as Tenebrionidae, Cleridae, Scarabeidae and Elateridae. The biomass of Carabidae that were larger than 15 mm was significantly higher within territories than outside them. The biomass of Cleridae was greater in fallows, while Elateridae were more abundant in arable fields. The total biomass of beetles that were larger than 15 mm was higher in arable fields than in fallows. Family richness differed between years, while diversity showed differences between agricultural fields (it was highest in fallows), although these variables did not differ between territory and non-territory locations. Results indicate that large beetles (particularly carabids) seem to be a valuable food resource that is defended by little bustard males during the highly energy-demanding breeding season, which is discussed here in relation to habitat selection, the mating system and its implications for the conservation of the species.

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