Proximity of breeding and foraging areas affects foraging effort of a crepuscular, insectivorous bird

  • February 14, 2018
  • by Ruben Evens, Natalie Beenaerts, Thomas Neyens, Nele Witters, Karen Smeets & Tom Artois 

When complementary resources are required for an optimal life cycle, most animals need to move between different habitats. However, the level of connectivity between resources can vary and, hence, influence individuals’ behaviour. We show that landscape composition and configuration affect the connectivity between breeding (heathlands) and foraging habitats (extensively-grazed grasslands) of the European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), a crepuscular insectivorous bird. On a daily basis, nightjars connect breeding and foraging sites by rapidly crossing unsuitable habitats in order to exploit a higher prey biomass in foraging sites. However, low availability of foraging habitat near breeding sites and clustered landscapes greatly increase foraging distance. Birds occupying these sub-optimal breeding areas compensate for longer travels by increasing foraging duration, and their physiology shows increased stress levels. All findings suggest that landscape heterogeneity can affect population dynamics of nightjars. Therefore, we recommend an integrated management approach for this EU-protected bird species.