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ESR 4:257-266 (2008)  -  DOI:

Influence of woodland cover on habitat selection and reproductive parameters of tropical roseate terns: implications for colony management

David Monticelli1,2,*, Jaime A. Ramos3, Jean-Louis Doucet2

1Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Section of Conservation Biology, 29 Rue Vautier, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
2Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Forestry, Unit of Forest and Nature Management, Gembloux Agricultural University, 2 Passage des Déportés, 5030 Gembloux, Belgium
3Institute of Marine Research (IMAR), Department of Zoology, University of Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal

ABSTRACT: We examined the effect of vegetation structure, in particular canopy closure, on colony site occupancy, nesting densities, and reproductive parameters of roseate terns Sterna dougallii breeding in a Pisonia grandis dominated woodland on Aride Island, Seychelles, western Indian Ocean. Long-term observations (1995 to 2006) revealed that areas with high vegetation density and canopy cover (>50%) were abandoned, in favour of nearby more open forest areas, such as clearings. The attractiveness of a forest clearing (0 to 25% canopy cover) to breeding birds was also largely supported by experimental manipulation of vegetation density in 2004. Most birds moved from areas under canopy cover to experimentally cleared plots, where they nested at higher densities and had a higher probability of successfully fledging a chick. However, some individuals remained in their original areas, despite their greater canopy cover, and had a lower fledging success. This site tenacity is presumably explained by an imprinting process leading some birds to breed in successive years in the same, familiar locations, despite their nest-sites having become sub-optimal for fledging success. Roseate terns choosing a nest site in woodland on Aride must trade off the need for some cover, offering protection from the sun, against the need for easy access through gaps in the canopy to fly to and from their nests. A suitable nest-site should also minimize chick/parent infestation by ticks and mortality caused by contamination of feathers with the sticky fruits of Pisonia grandis. We suggest that, when they are not formed naturally, small artificial forest clearings within the usual breeding area are likely to be attractive for roseate terns and may result in enhanced colony productivity. These findings may be applicable to other seabird colonies (e.g. sooty terns) found under forest cover on oceanic islands throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

KEY WORDS: Seabird colonies · Sterna dougallii · Habitat preference · Western Indian Ocean · Canopy cover · Pisonia grandis

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Cite this article as: Monticelli D, Ramos JA, Doucet JL (2008) Influence of woodland cover on habitat selection and reproductive parameters of tropical roseate terns: implications for colony management. Endang Species Res 4:257-266.

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