Habitat selection, nest predation and conservation biology in a Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) population

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis focuses on a black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) population, consisting of 35-40 pairs, that breeds on a grazed shore meadow on SE Gotland, Sweden. The small size of the population makes it more prone to extinction due to chance events, than a larger population.The godwits showed microhabitat preferences when choosing nest sites. Godwit nests had higher vegetation over the nest cup, lower surrounding (1-3 m) vegetation and different plant species composition, as compared to random sites. Breeding near conspecifics or other wader species, especially lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) and further away from potential predator perches were the most important factors in decreasing nest predation. A comparison between different shore meadows along the east coast of the island revealed that large, open areas suffered less from nest predation. Thus, shore meadows suitable for breeding godwits should be large and without trees or other predator perches and have a grazing regime that favours variation in vegetation height.Over 80% of previously ringed adults returned each year, but very few birds ringed as chicks were recovered. Hatching success was 55-60% for all observed nests. To predict the future of the current population, demographic data were used in an ecological risk analysis. The simulations showed that the Gotlandic population will not survive the coming 40 years without immigration.Black-tailed godwits are divided into three subspecies. Genetic analyses (mtDNA) revealed that all subspecies had unique haplotypes and there was a clear geographic structure among subspecies. Within the limosa subspecies, godwits on Gotland and Öland showed a high proportion of rare haplotypes, but no genetic variation was found in Dutch birds. These results imply that black-tailed godwits on Gotland and Öland have high conservation value.