Montagu’s harrier Circus pygargus in the northern Marcheregion of central Italy: frst evidence of a possiblepopulation increase

Morelli F., Fabio Pruscini F., Morganti N., Urbinati C., Asprea S., Casali S., Fosca A., Magalotti P., Mencarelli M., Morici F.

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In order to evaluate the status of the Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygarus) population in the northern Marche region of central Italy, a population which in recent years has been reported to be in a major decline and facing a severe local threat, we surveyed the species’ historical occupied territories and their suitable habitat. We recorded 11 Montagu’s harrier breeding pairs during 2010 and 12 breeding pairs during the 2011 breeding season. Our results are the frst evidence that the population of Montagu’s harrier in the study area has increased during the last fve years compared to data in the available literature. We characterized breeding habitat in terms of land use composition, proximity to other nests, building structures and altitude. The species seems to prefer breeding in the agricultural landscape, while it mainly chooses to build the nest in patches of uncultivated, shrub and badland vegetation. We also noticed an increase in the altitudinal range of the breeding habitat of the species in the study area. We conclude that these behaviors may represent an improvement for conservation of the species by reducing the effects of nest losses caused by agricultural practices and urban factors.