Population overlap and habitat segregation in wintering Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa

José A. Alves, Pedro M. Lourenço, Theunis Piersma, William J. Sutherland, Jennifer A. Gill

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Distinct breeding populations of migratory species may overlap both spatially and temporally, but differ in patterns of habitat use. This has important implications for population monitoring and conservation. To quantify the extent to which two distinct breeding populations of a migratory shorebird, the Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, overlap spatially, temporally and in their use of different habitats during winter. We use mid-winter counts between 1990 and 2001 to identify the most important sites in Iberia for Black-tailed Godwits. Monthly surveys of estuarine mudflats and rice-fields at one major site, the Tejo estuary in Portugal in 2005-2007, together with detailed tracking of colour-ringed individuals, are used to explore patterns of habitat use and segregation of the Icelandic subspecies L. l. islandica and the nominate continental subspecies L. l. limosa. In the period 1990-2001, over 66 000 Black-tailed Godwits were counted on average in Iberia during mid-winter (January), of which 80% occurred at just four sites: Tejo and Sado lower basins in Portugal, and Coto Dontildeana and Ebro Delta in Spain. Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits are present throughout the winter and forage primarily in estuarine habitats. Continental Black-tailed Godwits are present from December to March and primarily use rice-fields. Iberia supports about 30% of the Icelandic population in winter and most of the continental population during spring passage. While the Icelandic population is currently increasing, the continental population is declining rapidly. Although the estuarine habitats used by Icelandic godwits are largely protected as Natura 2000 sites, the habitat segregation means that conservation actions for the decreasing numbers of continental godwits should focus on protection of rice-fields and re-establishment of freshwater wetlands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-391
Number of pages11
JournalBird Study
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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