Sexual differences in microhabitat selection of breeding little bustards Tetrax tetrax: Ecological segregation based on vegetation structure

Oct 25, 2020

We examined sexual differences in patterns of vegetation structure selection in the sexually dimorphic little bustard. Differences in vegetation structure between male, female and non-used locations during reproduction were examined and used to build a presence/absence model for each sex. Ten variables were measured in each location, extracting two PCA factors (PC1: a visibility-shelter gradient; PC2: a gradient in food availability) used as response variables in GLM explanatory models. Both factors significantly differed between female, male and control locations. Neither study site nor phenology was significant. Logistic regression was used to model male and female presence/absence. Female presence was positively associated to cover of ground by vegetation litter, as well as overall vegetation cover, and negatively to vegetation density over 30 cm above ground. Male presence was positively related to litter cover and short vegetation and negatively to vegetation density over 30 cm above ground. Models showed good global performance and robustness. Female microhabitat selection and distribution seems to be related to the balance between shelter and visibility for surveillance. Male microhabitat selection would be related mainly to the need of conspicuousness for courtship. Accessibility to food resources seems to be equally important for both sexes. Differences suggest ecological sexual segregation resulting from different ecological constraints. These are the first detailed results on vegetation structure selection in both male and female little bustards, and are useful in designing management measures addressing vegetation structure irrespective of landscape composition. Similar microhabitat approaches can be applied to manage the habitat of many declining farmland birds.

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