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Long term stability of White-necked Picathartes population in south-east Sierra Leone

  • DAVID MONTICELLI (a1), ALHAJI SIAKA (a2), GRAEME M. BUCHANAN (a1), SIMON WOTTON (a1), TONY MORRIS (a1), JIM C. WARDILL (a1) and JEREMY A. LINDSELL (a1)...

Summary

White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus is a globally ‘Vulnerable’ bird endemic to the highly threatened Upper Guinea forests in West Africa. In an environment under a high level of threat, the high breeding site fidelity (or breeding site persistence) of this species enables long term monitoring of colony site occupancy, colony size and other breeding parameters, which provide multiple indicators of population status. We surveyed known colony sites and searched for new sites in three recent breeding seasons in order to assess the current population status in the most important part of their range in Sierra Leone, the Gola Forest. We found 157 active nests at 40 colonies, equating to at least 314 adult birds. Less than half of the known colonies were protected by the Gola Forest Reserve. Colonies outside the reserve tended to be confined to larger rocks and subject to disturbance from human activities in close proximity, but did not have fewer active nests in them. Colonies outside the reserve were also more likely to be inactive in a given year whereas all colonies inside the reserve were active in every survey year. A predictive distribution model indicated that the survey region could have as many as 234 nests equating to at least 468 breeding birds. There was no evidence that mean colony size had declined since surveys undertaken in the 1980s and 1990s but it was not possible to compare colony abandonment rates inside and outside the reserve over that time period. Clutch and brood sizes were similar in each year, though brood size appeared slightly lower in the third survey year possibly because of a slightly later survey date. Mean clutch and brood sizes reported during the study period were similar to those found in the 1980s and 1990s. We conclude that the population of White-necked Picathartes in the Gola Forest area has been relatively stable over the last two decades, reflecting both the efficacy of protection afforded by the Gola Forest Reserve and presumably low pressure to farm new areas in the nearby community forest. However, regular monitoring of colonies both inside and outside the reserve is required to detect any systematic impact on the birds as pressure for land increases.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence; e-mail: monticelli.david@gmail.com

References

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