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Influence of feeding ecology on breeding success of a semi-wild population of the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita in southern Turkey



Safeguarding threatened species in captivity is a promising management approach, but evaluating the performance of captive programmes is essential to assess reintroduction potential. The eastern population of the Northern Bald Ibis, Geronticus eremita, used to be a locally common migratory bird species, but catastrophic population declines throughout the past century have resulted in a single population in southern Turkey that forages freely during summer but only survives in captivity during winter. We examined whether breeding success of this semi-wild colony was comparable to breeding success of previous wild populations, and to what extent breeding success was influenced by supplementary feeding and wild foraging in habitats near the breeding station. Average productivity from 2009 to 2015 was 1.12 fledglings per nesting pair (range 0.96–1.19). In 2013 and 2014, there was no correlation between attendance at supplementary feeding events and productivity, and breeding birds attended on average only 35% of supplementary feeding events. Birds that were frequently observed at a local tree nursery raised fewer offspring, while birds observed more frequently in poldered cultivation, and in particular in mint crops or in fields covered with manure, raised on average more offspring. Foraging success was highest in meadows and cropland, particularly in mint crops and fields covered in manure, and lowest at the tree nursery. We speculate that selection of highly suitable wild foraging habitat such as mint crops or fields covered in manure allows the Northern Bald Ibis to raise more fledglings than exclusive reliance on supplementary food provided at the breeding station. Establishing a second breeding colony of this species in Turkey will therefore require a careful assessment of the suitability of wild foraging habitat in the vicinity of suitable nesting opportunities.


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Influence of feeding ecology on breeding success of a semi-wild population of the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita in southern Turkey



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