Publisher: Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Today's intensive farming practices are known to have affected farmland biodiversity negatively in many different ways. As far as birds are concerned, they are known to have suffered during both summer and winter. Relatively little is known about the effects on birds during migration. We studied the stopover ecology of the Eurasian golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, a species listed in EU Birds Directive, in intensively farmed arable land in southernmost Sweden in the autumns of 2003-2007. We used key ecological variables (length of stay, fat deposition and moult) as fitness proxies to evaluate how the birds manage in this habitat. Eurasian golden plovers were present in large numbers mainly on arable fields from early August to November and radio-tagged birds were found to stay in the area for up to three months. Adult birds carried out a substantial part of their flight feather moult during their stay. Body mass increased only somewhat during moult, but from the last stages of moult and onwards fuel loads corresponding to 24% above lean body mass (LBM) were accumulated at a rate of 0.5% of LBM per day, before the birds departed. Juveniles arrived later, from mid Sep., and had a similar pattern of fuel deposition. The fact that the birds choose to stay for long periods, moult in the area, and manage to store substantial fuel loads strongly suggests that Eurasian golden plovers do well in this intensively farmed arable land.