Effect of supplementary food on age ratios of European turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur L.)
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Many farmland birds have difficulties finding sufficient food in intensely managed agricultural ecosystems, and in more extensively worked landscapes they are often attracted to human–induced dietary sources. European turtle doves Streptopelia turtur feed on seeds collected on the ground, and are readily attracted to supplementary provided grain at feeding stations. Supplementary feeding is a common management practice on hunting estates around the world. This study was conducted in 40 hunting estates located in central west Spain: 20 sites where supplementary food was provided to attract turtle doves and 20 control sites without feeding stations. At sites with supplemental feeding, the field age ratio was 20% higher and the hunted age ratio was 33% higher than at control sites, indicating a positive effect of the food supplementation of the breeding success around supplemented sites. Both the amount of food provided per day and the amount of time where supplemental food was given (20–120 days) were positively correlated with the field age ratio and, less strongly, with the hunted age ratio. These data suggest that providing extra food can increase the breeding success of this species when the amount provided is sufficiently large and when supplementary food is provided early in the breeding season. However, hunting pressure was also higher at supplemented sites. Future studies should therefore closely monitor the positive and negative effects in order to ascertain which management practices will ensure the viability of these important European turtle dove populations.