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Home range dynamics, habitat selection, and survival of Greater Roadrunners

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Greater Roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus) are common, poorly studied birds of arid and semi-arid ecosystems in the southwestern United States. Conservation of this avian predator requires a detailed understanding of their movements and spatial requirements that is currently lacking. From 2006 to 2009, we quantified home-range and core area sizes and overlap, habitat selection, and survival of roadrunners (N= 14 males and 20 females) in north-central Texas using radio-telemetry and fixed kernel estimators. Median home-range and core-area sizes were 90.4 ha and 19.2 ha for males and 80.1 ha and 16.7 ha for females, respectively. The size of home range and core areas did not differ significantly by either sex or season. Our home range estimates were twice as large (= 108.9 ha) as earlier published estimates based on visual observations (= 28–50 ha). Mean percent overlap was 38.4% for home ranges and 13.7% for core areas. Male roadrunners preferred mesquite woodland and mesquite savanna cover types, and avoided the grass-forb cover type. Female roadrunners preferred mesquite savanna and riparian woodland cover types, and avoided grass-forb habitat. Kaplan-Meier annual survival probabilities for females (0.452 ± 0.118[SE]) were twice that estimated for males (0.210 ± 0.108), but this difference was not significant. Mortality rates of male roadrunners were higher than those of females during the spring when males call from elevated perches, court females, and chase competing males. Current land use practices that target woody-shrub removal to enhance livestock forage production could be detrimental to roadrunner populations by reducing availability of mesquite woodland and mesquite savanna habitat required for nesting and roosting and increasing the amount of grass-forb habitat that roadrunners avoid.
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Keywords: Geococcyx californianus; Texas; selection ratios; survival; telemetry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Texas A&M University System, Vernon, Texas 76384-1658, USA 2: Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2258, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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