Habitat selection and partitioning of the Black-bellied Sandgrouse, the Stone Curlew and the Cream-coloured Courser in arid areas of North Africa

Traba, J., Acebes, P., Malo, J. E., García, J. T., Carriles, E., Radi, M., & Znari, M. (2013). Habitat selection and partitioning of the Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis), the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) and the Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor) in arid areas of North Africa. Journal of Arid Environments 94: 10-17.

Abstract:

Niche theory predicts that coexisting species with similar trophic requirements should demonstrate resource partitioning, particularly where resources are scarce. Conversely, this is not expected between species that do not share primary resources. This study analyses the patterns of spatial coexistence and habitat selection, on two spatial scales, of three species of semidesert regions in Morocco: the Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis), the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) and the Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor). Co-occurrence analysis results point to between-species segregation on a macrohabitat scale. Hotelling’s T test of the species-presence data showed a pattern of macrohabitat selection that diverged from habitat availability for the three species with differences among them. Both the classification tree and the pattern of microhabitat selection obtained by model averaging showed scant overlap between the Sandgrouse and the Courser, suggesting habitat partitioning between them on a fine scale. Our results confirm spatial segregation of the three species, especially between species with different trophic strategies: the Sandgrouse versus the Stone Curlew and the Courser. The latter two species were best segregated on a microhabitat scale, supporting the conclusions that macro- and microhabitat selection are major factors in bird community configuration in arid ecosystems and contributing to reduce potential competition.

Highlights:

► The three steppe-bird species show a low level of overlap at the macrohabitat scale.

► Granivorous species shows habitat segregation from insectivorous ones at macro and microhabitat.

► Insectivorous species show habitat partitioning only at microhabitat scale.

► Segregation is mainly based on abiotic factors such as topography and surface structure.

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