Volume 43 - N. 2
December 2019

Avocetta
Volume 43 - N. 2
Volume 43 - N.2, December 2019



  1. Editorial - Renewal of Avocetta Board

    Bruno Massa and Roberto Ambrosini

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    In these Editorials, the outgoing and the freshly elected Editor-in-chief, respectively profs. Bruno Massa and Roberto Ambrosini, debate on the current and future challenges for Ornithology in Italy and Europe

  2. Six (or nearly so) big challenges for farmland bird conservation in Italy

    Mattia Brambilla

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    Italy harbours a large proportion of the breeding populations of several threatened or declining farmland species, but has been under-represented for a long time in studies about ecology and conservation of farmland birds. In the last two decades, several studies have partially filled the gap, providing key knowledge for their conservation; however, the practical implementation of conservation strategies had been very limited, and many aspects still require research. I analyse the status of farmland birds in Italy, identify main issues for their conservation, and propose directions for effective conservation strategies. Species tied to grassland-like habitats (hay meadow, montane grassland, pasture, pseudosteppe) currently have the most concerning conservation status, followed by species occupying agricultural mosaics and shrubland; only generalist species are performing better and include many species with favourable conservation status. Several factors/pressures negatively affect breeding farmland birds in Italy. Main threats could be tentatively assigned to six “challenges”: agricultural intensification, land abandonment, pest management, low breeding success, difficult practical implementation of conservation measures, within-season shift in distribution and habitat by breeding species. They are interconnected by means of direct effects or by acting on the same ultimate drivers of population dynamics. Such challenges mostly act at two levels: the landscape scale, and the field management level. For each one, I summarise available evidence from studies carried out in Italy, discuss conservation implications and their current/possible implementations, and highlight main needs in terms of future research. In general, key issues for conservation are: planning measures at the right scales; conserving, restoring and correctly managing grassland; conserving/enhancing ‘marginal’ features and heterogeneity; correctly managing ground vegetation in perennial crops; facing the ‘nest crisis’; considering the temporally different suitability and the connectivity among patches; evaluating the economic outcomes and the broader benefits of different conservation strategies. Implementation of measures for farmland birds requires multi-faceted efforts, targeted at different stakeholders; a focus also on the ecosystem services arising from a biodiversity-friendly management could provide a broader support for conservation initiatives. Now it is time to intensively cooperate with practitioners (farmers at first) to translate into management protocols and appealing agri-environmental schemes the conservation implications of research carried out in the last decades.

  3. Bird communities analysis and Marxan software for the management of a Mediterranean protected area

    Roberto Isotti and Mario Monacelli

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    The bird community analysis, carried out by transect and point count methods, are quantitative analysis. Our aim in this paper is to analyse the results, based on each of these tools, using Marxan, a mapping software to obtain a zonation of a protect area in Mediterranean central Italy . The management algorithms of protected areas are widely used to identify potential networks of natural reserves that meet pre-established ecological limits, such as the presence of a specific percentage of habitats or a specific number of populations, at the same time minimizing costs. The Marxan software was made for different habitat where fragmentation of natural patches are significantly lower than in the study area, but it show interesting and useful result also in this situation. Marxan is particularly useful to solve the problem of the minimum set, in which the aim is to identify, at the lowest possible cost, the areas in which the biodiversity preconditions identified are present. In this work the Circeo National Park (Central Italy) was analysed, as an example of the Mediterranean area. We elaborated, through Marxan a series of maps of the priority areas for conservation that can be used as a starting point working with all the stakeholders involved in the management of the area itself. The main information suggests is to take particular attention to seasonal variations in the composition of the bird communities and, consequently, to the weight that the Park assumes at national and international level in the context of migratory movements and biodiversity conservation. In addition, special attention must be paid to the growing of intensive, rapidly expanding agricultural activities that are not enough controlled and are potentially highly damaging for the Park’s biodiversity, both in terms of vegetation and fauna.

  4. Diet heterogeneity and antioxidant defence in Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica nestlings

    Camila Paola Grigolo, Beatrice Sicurella, Federica Musitelli, Andrea Romano, Manuela Caprioli, Diego Rubolini, Roberto Ambrosini and Mauro Gobbi

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    Populations of several farmland bird species have suffered sharp declines linked to increased environmental homogeneity and reduced biodiversity, particularly of insects, upon which several farmland birds feed. Diet, in turn, has a crucial role in organism fitness. Antioxidants acquired through diet, in particular, help by protecting the organisms against the effects of Reactive Oxygen Species, which originate as a natural by-product of metabolism. Here we investigated the relationships among environmental heterogeneity, diet composition, and oxidative status by using Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) nestling as a model. By analysing chitin fragments extracted from faecal sacs, we found that nestlings’ diet was mainly composed by four insect families: Formicidae (Hymenoptera), Aphodidae (Coleoptera), Tabanidae and Syrphidae (Diptera). We also observed body parts of Diabrotica virgifera, the most important insect pest of maize (Zea mais) in the world. Nestling diet composition varied with environmental heterogeneity in the foraging range of adult Barn Swallow (i.e. 200 m from each colony). The antioxidant capacity (AOC) of nestlings, which was assessed using the OXY-Adsorbent test on blood plasma samples, peaked at intermediate values of diet diversity, suggesting that it can be mediated by the composition of the nestlings’ diet. Heterogeneous environments may offer a wide array of pray, and this may allow foraging Barn Swallow to feed their nestling with selected prey that may enhance their oxidative status. Similar mechanisms may act for a wide array of farmland birds, thus shading light on the mechanisms that link habitat homogenization and bird population declines.

  5. Proper gravel management may counteract population decline of the Collared Sand Martin Riparia riparia

    Giulia Masoero, Giovanni Boano, Alberto Tamietti, Enrico Caprio

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    Riparian habitats have gone through major structural changes, and related bird populations had to suffer the consequences or adapt to the newfound conditions. Here, we present the results of the analysis of on the river and quarry evolution, in relation to a long-term monitoring (1970-2016) of a Sand Martins population nesting along the River Po in northern Italy. During the course of the study, the population went from breeding in the natural river banks to more anthropogenic sites in the surrounding quarries. The alteration of the river dynamic and linearization of the course, alongside the development of the sand quarries, may have caused this change. We conclude with a consideration on the ways to support the survival of populations of riparian birds. Functional nesting habitat along the river should be better preserved, and potential nesting areas in the surrounding quarries should be protected with long term restoration projects. Sand quarries are not free of threats, and cooperation among stakeholders has proven to be of the utmost importance to ensure the success of the population breeding in the area.

  6. Short note - Status and distribution of Paraguayan 'Black Tyrants' (Tyrannidae: Knipolegus) with a remarkable new country record

    Paul Smith and Kevin Easley

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    “Black-tyrants” (Tyrannidae: Knipolegus) are a distinctive Neotropical genus of flycatchers with black or dark grey males and brownish or reddish females. Five species have previously been reported in Paraguay and a discussion of all verifiable reports is provided. Knipolegus striaticeps is considered resident and a presumed breeder, but no nest has yet been reported. Knipolegus hudsoni is considered a passage migrant in September and October. Knipolegus cyanirostris is considered a winter visitor. Knipolegus aterrimus is known from few records in the Chaco region, and is possibly a rare altitudinal migrant. The status of Knipolegus lophotes requires further investigation, with Paraguay representing the western extreme of its known range. The first report of Knipolegus poecilurus for the country is documented with photographs. This high-Andean species is considered to be a vagrant pending further information.

  7. Forum - Early career researchers in ornithology: attitudes, career prospects and gender issues

    Susanne Jähnig, Enrico Caprio and Dan Chamberlain

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    Early Career Researchers (ECRs) represent the next generation of ornithologists. In order to maximise the potential of ECRs to science, it is important to understand their perceptions of the opportunities and constraints that they face. We undertook a pilot study based on a questionnaire survey to gauge attitudes of ECRs in ornithology towards the current research environment, future career prospects, and gender bias. ECRs were defined as having less than five years’ post-doctoral experience. The ECRs surveyed included BSc and MSc students, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. The goal of the majority of ECRs was a career in academia, but there was also interest in working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Career prospects were perceived as increasingly negative from BSc/MSc students through to postdocs, likely reflecting a career bottleneck at the post-doctoral level. The influence of Twitter, open access publishing, open access data and journal Impact Factors were generally perceived as positive, although many BSc/MSc students had apparently little awareness of these initiatives. Female, but not male, ECRs perceived their gender to have a negative influence on their job prospects, and also were less likely to agree that a research career was compatible with having a family/partner. Our findings could be used to help ECRs to fulfil their ambitions in terms of establishing a career in ornithology. We suggest that provision of better support, communication and training to ECRs, as well as continuing initiatives to address gender bias, will improve the research environment for the next generation of ornithologists. These goals could be achieved through targeted events at national and international conferences and through enhanced communication on social media platforms.

  8. Columns - BIRD NEWS 2019

    Gaia Bazzi (ed.)

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    Interesting sightings about birds of the world for unusual behaviour, phenology or other features

  9. Columns - Commissione Ornitologica Italiana (COI) - Report 28

    Egidio Fulco and Cristiano Liuzzi

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    Report of the certified observations of rare birds in Italy for the year 2018 (in Italian)

  10. Closing Columns - Book Reviews and Obituary (Prof. Nicola Saino)

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