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Animal Biodiversity and Conservation. Volume 44.2 (2021) Pages: 229-239

Increasing wild boar density explains the decline of a Montagu's harrier population on a protected coastal wetlan

Crespo, J., Jiménez, J., Martínez-Abrain, A.





We studied the rapid decline in the number of breeding pairs (geometric growth rate λ = 0.86; 14 % annual decrease) of a semi–colonial ground–nesting bird of prey, the Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus), after twelve years of rapid population growth (λ = 1.15; 15 % rate of annual increase) in a protected coastal wetland in Eastern Spain. The study was conducted from 1992–2017, and the range of values in population size was: 2–37 breeding pairs. We contrasted 20 biologically–sound hypotheses (including local and regional factors) to explain the trend over time in the annual number of pairs. The most parsimonious model included a surrogate of wild boar (Sus scrofa) density in the region during the previous year and the annual number of Montagu’s harrier pairs breeding inland in the study province during the focal year. Syntopic western marsh harriers (C. aeruginosus) were not found to have any effect on the numbers of Montagu’s harriers either in our modelling or when we performed a quantitative and qualitative study both for years t and t–1. Our final ‘best’ models did not include spring rainfall, regional forest fires or local land use changes. The impact of wild boars on breeding success, together with conspecific attraction, could have resulted in the dispersal of coastal wetland birds to larger populations in dense inland shrub lands where levels of wild boar nest predation were more likely lower


Ground–nesting birds, Regional dynamics, Protected wetlands, Nest predation, Circus pygargus, Sus scrofa


Crespo, J., Jiménez, J., Martínez-Abrain, A., 2021. Increasing wild boar density explains the decline of a Montagu's harrier population on a protected coastal wetlan. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation, 44: 229-239, DOI:

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