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Changes in behaviour and faecal glucocorticoid levels in response to increased human activities during weekends in the pin-tailed sandgrouse

AuthorsCasas, Fabián; Benítez-López, Ana ; Tarjuelo, Rocío; Barja, Isabel; Viñuela, Javier ; García, Jesús T. ; Morales, Manuel B.; Mougeot, François
KeywordsMixed-species association
Tetrax tetrax
Pterocles alchata
Human leisure activities
Agricultural activities
Faecal glucocorticoid metabolites
Issue Date2016
PublisherSpringer Nature
CitationNaturwissenschaften 103: 91 (2016)
AbstractHuman recreational activities are becoming increasingly widespread and frequent, a fact that may potentially exacerbate their effects on wildlife. These human-related disturbances on animals may induce behavioural and physiological changes that can ultimately affect their fitness, showing a similar anti-predator response that against natural predator or other threats. Here, we combine the use of behavioural and physiological approaches to assess the potential effect of winter human activities on a threatened farmland bird in Europe, the pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata). We compared before, during and after weekend variations in human activity rates, pin-tailed sandgrouse behaviour (flocking and flying behaviour, interspecific association in mixed flocks and habitat use) and faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations. Human disturbances, in particular those associated with hunting activities, peaked during weekends. Sandgrouse showed significant behavioural changes (increased sandgrouse-only flock sizes, increased proportion of birds flying and changes in habitat use) during weekends and higher faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations after the weekends compared with during or before weekends. Therefore, physiological stress levels could be modulated by behavioural adjustments such as increased flock sizes and changes in habitat use that may allow sandgrouse to cope with increased human disturbance rates during weekends. Nevertheless, temporal and spatial organization of hunting days among groups of estates might be good strategies to buffer these potential adverse effects on wintering pin-tailed sandgrouse and other steppe species of conservation concern, while preserving a socio-economically important activity such as hunting.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/s00114-016-1416-6
issn: 1432-1904
issn: 0028-1042
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