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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Ranging behaviour and habitat use in Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus in extensive farmland of Eastern Poland

Krupinski, Dominik; Kotowska, Dorota; Recio, Mariano R.; Zmihorski, Michal; Obloza, Przemyslaw; Mirski, Pawel


Agriculture intensification drives changes in bird populations but also in the space use by farmland species. Agriculture in Eastern Europe still follows an extensive farming model, but due to policy shifts aimed at rural restructuring and implementation of government subsidies for farmers, it is being rapidly intensified. Here, we aimed to document the ranging behaviour and habitat use of a declining farmland bird of prey-Montagu's Harrier-and to compare it to findings from Western Europe. In 2011-2018, 50 individuals were followed with GPS loggers in Eastern Poland to study species spatial ecology. We found home ranges (kernel 90%) to be considerably large: 67.3 (+/- 42.3) km(2) in case of males, but only 4.9 (+/- 6.1) km(2) in females. Home ranges overlapped by 40%, on average, with other males in colonies and by 61%, on average, between consecutive breeding seasons of a particular male. The average daily distance travelled by males and females reached, respectively, 94.5 and 45.3 km, covering a daily home range of 32.3 and 3.1 km(2). Individuals foraged up to 35 km from nests (3.5 km on average). Daily distance travelled and daily home ranges varied across the breeding season, in case of females being shortest in July, but sharply increasing in August. Also, individuals with breeding success had higher daily distance travelled but smaller daily home ranges. Average harriers' distance to nest was generally increasing over the season, but was also changing over time of day: birds were closest to nest during night time, but at the end of the season, males roosted up to 16 km from the nest. While foraging males slightly preferred grasslands, higher elevation and smaller land-use patches, they avoided slopes and proximity of roads. We conclude that the surprisingly large home ranges of breeding harriers may suggest reduced prey availability or high fragmentation of hunting areas, both driving birds to utilise large areas and potentially contributing to population decline.


Home range; Movement ecology; Agricultural landscape; Circus pygargus

Published in

Journal of Ornithology
2021, volume: 162, number: 2, pages: 325-337

Authors' information

Krupinski, Dominik
Nature Society ‘Stork’
Kotowska, Dorota
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Rodriguez Recio, Mariano
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Zmihorski, Michal
Polish Academy of Sciences
Obłoza, Przemysław
Nature Society ‘Stork’
Mirski, Pawel
Estonian University of Life Sciences

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