Alonso, H., Correia, R.A., Marques, A.T., Palmeirim, J.M., Moreira, F. & Silva, J.P. (2020) Male post‐breeding movements and stopover habitat selection of an endangered short‐distance migrant, the Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax.Ibis, 162(2), 279-292. DOI:10.1111/ibi.12706 (IF2019 2,076; Q1 Ornithology)
Migratory decisions, such as the selection of stopover sites, are critical for the success of post‐breeding migratory movements and subsequent survival. Recent advances in bio‐logging have revealed the stopover strategies of many long‐distance migrants, but far less attention has been given to short‐distance migrants. We investigated the stopover ecology of an endangered grassland bird, the Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax, a short‐distance migrant in Iberia. Using high‐resolution spatial GPS/GSM data, 27 male Little Bustards breeding in southern Portugal were tracked between 2009 and 2011. We studied post‐breeding movements using Dynamic Brownian Bridge models to identify the main stopover sites, and generalized linear mixed models to examine habitat selection in stopovers. During their post‐breeding movements, males were essentially nocturnal migrants, making frequent stopovers while maintaining a relatively fast pace to reach more productive agricultural post‐breeding areas. Stopovers occurred in most post‐breeding movements (83%) regardless of the total distance covered (average 64.3 km), and most stopovers (84%) lasted less than 24 h. Birds used mostly agricultural non‐irrigated and irrigated croplands as stopover sites and avoided other land uses and rugged terrain. There was a negative relationship between stopovers and the proximity to roads, but not to power lines. The high frequency of stopovers during post‐breeding movements, despite the short distances travelled, together with the nocturnal migratory behaviour of bustards, may impose additional risks to a bird mainly threatened by collision with power lines in non‐breeding areas. We also conclude that even for short‐distance migrants, habitat connectivity between breeding and post‐breeding areas is likely to be a key conservation concern.