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SCHOLTEN J & STAAL J (2018) Habitat use of Grey Partridges Perdix perdix on sandy soil in Noord-Brabant. LIMOSA 91 (4): 157-167.

The Grey Partridge is an iconic species of agricultural landscapes. Intensification of agriculture is believed to be the main cause of the strong decline of the Grey Partridge, and as a result only small populations currently remain in the Netherlands. Information about how Grey Partridges use their habitat is necessary to apply appropriate management measures. In this study, two Grey Partridges (cock 319 and hen 326) were tagged using radiotransmitters, and tracked twice a week using a handheld antenna and receiver. In this way we gained information about habitat use in an intensive agricultural landscape.

The area of Grey Partridge cock 319 consisted mainly of intensive agricultural land (>40%). The area of Grey Partridge hen 326 consisted of 43% intensive agricultural land and 40% extensive grassland. The first two years after tagging (2014-2015) the cock stayed within a circle with a 1 km radius. Only the third (2016) and last year (2017) the bird moved outside this circle, probably to find a new hen. From 2015- 2016, the hen only had three locations outside a circle with a 500 m radius, most likely due to nest predation. On average, the cock travelled 256 m between subsequent locations (maximum distance of 2348 m). For the hen, this was only 136 m (maximum distance of 776 m). For both individuals, distances covered in winter were higher than during the breeding season. In winter and spring, the cock was mostly found on maize stubble, but also intensive grassland and farmyards were used. Due to the high prevalence of maize and intensive grassland in the area of the cock, it is possible that he used these crops in the absence of better options. In the summer of 2014, the cock, together with his chicks, used a barley field. The nest had been located in a ditch adjacent to this field. In the other summers and in autumn he was mainly found in potato and intensive grassland. The hen mainly used extensive grassland in winter, spring and summer. In both years, she used extensive grassland for nesting. While potatoes were much more prevalent than beetroots, the hen was often recorded in beetroots in autumn. This suggests that in autumn, Grey Partridges prefer beetroots over potatoes.

The high age of both the cock (> 5th calendar year) and the hen (> 2nd calendar year) at the end of the study period reveals that Grey Partridges can survive in a landscape dominated by intensive agriculture. Such high survival seems however only possible with presence of extensive grassland, ditches, cereal crops and farmyards. In contrast to survival, breeding success was low (both the cock and hen succeeded to nest only once during the years they were tracked). The results of the study show that habitat use of Grey Partridges can differ notably within a distance of only 15 km. Therefore, it is important to plan conservation measures at a local basis.

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limosa 91.4 2018
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