Habitat use and tree selection of a declining Afro-Palaearctic migrant at sub-Saharan staging and wintering sites

Capsule: Wood Warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix showed significant selection for tree species and woodland characteristics at staging and wintering sites in sub-Saharan Africa.

Aims: To investigate home range size, habitat and tree species selection of Wood Warblers at a staging site in Burkina Faso (Koubri) and a wintering site in Ghana (Pepease).

Methods: Comparing habitat recorded at locations of radio-tagged birds and at control points, we investigated whether there was habitat and tree species selection. We also compared home range size of individual birds between the two sites.

Results: Home range size did not differ between the two sites. There was significant selection for tree species at both Koubri and Pepease: Anogeissus leiocarpus and Albizia zygia, respectively. At Koubri, there was significant avoidance of the most common tree species (Azadirachta indica, Mangifera indica (both non-native), Vitellaria paradoxa and Acacia spp.). In addition, there was a preference for taller trees and greater tree density at both sites. However, the probability of a point being used declined with increasing number of taller (>14 m) trees.

Conclusion: Fine-scale selection of woodland habitats suggests that Wood Warblers are likely to suffer the consequences of ongoing land-use change in their West African wintering grounds.