© Marcel Burkhardt
Buehler, R., L. Bosco, R. Arlettaz & A. Jacot (2017)
Nest site preferences of the Woodlark (Lullula arborea) and its association with artificial nest predation.
Acta Oecol. 78: 41–46
The Woodlark is an insectivorous bird, which is listed as a priority species in Switzerland. In Valais, a stronghold of this species in the country, the birds breed in intensively managed vineyards and show a preference for parcels with ground vegetation during territory establishment. As a ground-breeder, the species is highly vulnerable to nest predation by avian and mammal predators. The aims of our study were firstly to investigate nest site preferences of the woodlark within vineyards and secondly to compare the predation risk of artificial nests dependent of ground vegetation structure. Our results point out that the Woodlark prefers patches of tall and dense ground cover within vegetated vineyard parcels and avoids parcels that have been treated with herbicides. In a follow-up experiment we conducted a study comparing the predation rate of artificial nests between bare parcels (<20% vegetated area) and vegetated parcels (>40% vegetated area). Artificial nests equipped with one quail egg were distributed pairwise between two adjacent parcels that fulfilled the upper criteria and were monitored by trail cameras during 10e12 days. Predation rate was generally low (4 predation events) and only occurred in bare parcels. These data indicate that conspicuousness of avian nests may be decreased in vegetated parcels and that the amount of vegetation can lower the predation risk on ground breeding birds - another indication for the importance of ground vegetation for a successful conservation of the endangered Woodlark in Swiss vineyards.
keywords: Ground vegetation, habitat requirements, predation risk, vineyard management