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Understanding the factors that affect the nesting success of threatened birds is essential in designing effective conservation strategies. Here we compare nesting success of the Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei in annually harvested and non-harvested reedbed habitats in the Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve in China, by recording the number of nestlings produced per nest and the causes of nest failure. We modelled daily nest survival rate (DSR) by considering the effects of harvesting, vegetation characteristics, year, date, advancement within the breeding season, nest age and nearest-nest distance, using the program MARK. Nest densities, but not the number of fledglings per nest, were significantly lower in harvested than non-harvested reedbed habitats. The best-fit DSR model estimated constant survival; none of the tested co-variables had significant effects. Moreover, harvesting did not affect the date of breeding initiation, likelihood of nest failure, or causes of nest failure, as vegetation cover was not significantly different between harvested and non-harvested reedbeds during the whole breeding season. Nest failure following adverse weather conditions was unusually common in harvested and non-harvested reedbeds, accounting for as many nest failures as depredation. However, comparisons with other studies suggest that deriving a conclusion on the impact of harvesting on nesting success is not straightforward and is probably linked to environmental characteristics affecting reed growth.
The Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei is an endemic reedbed-inhabiting passerine of east Asia. In the Shanghai municipality, which harbours significant populations of this species, almost all reedbed surfaces are annually harvested. Furthermore, the reedbeds are being invaded by Smooth Cordgrass Spartina alterniflora, an introduced species that can outcompete the native Common Reed Phragmites australis. In this paper, we have shown that Reed Parrotbills do not nest in areas dominated by Smooth Cordgrass and avoid using them. In the areas that are primarily composed of Common Reed, the densities of birds are higher in the unharvested sections. The birds appear to select nesting sites with low Smooth Cordgrass densities, tall reed stems, and relatively equal densities of both dry and green stems. Reed harvesting activity results in vegetation that is too low for bird nesting. However, no nests were found in areas where the reeds had not been harvested for several years and had high densities of dry reed stems; these results could be attributed to the fact that the high density of broken stems reduced the vegetation cover. On the basis of our results, we recommend implementation of four years harvesting-cycle rotation and avoidance of reclamation in reedbeds which have not been invaded by Smooth Cordgrass.
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