Habitat selection and conservation of Sharpe's longclaw (Macronyx sharpei), a threatened Kenyan grassland endemic
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Biological conservation. - Liverpool
, p. 271-277
University of Antwerp
Montane grassland is a severely threatened habitat in Kenya. Despite a high level of faunal endemism, it has received very little conservation attention. We investigated habitat selection in a threatened grassland endemic bird species, Sharpe's longclaw (Macronyx sharpei) (family Motacillidae), in order to understand its likely response to land-use changes. Between November 1995 and May 1996, we studied 41 territories of this species on the Kinangop Plateau in central Kenya. With an overall density of 0.4 birds ha(-1), longclaws lived in permanent groups of two to seven individuals. They were sedentary and territorial, with a mean home range size of 0.5 ha. The species avoided non-grassland areas entirely, and within grassland showed a strong preference for short grass with tussocks. Territory sizes and foraging ranges were smaller, and rates of pecking for food higher, in this grassland type than in open short grass or long grass. Land use changes, in particular conversion to cultivation or woodlots and ploughing up of grassland to remove tussocks, pose a serious and immediate threat to this species. Dairy farming is potentially compatible with grassland conservation, and conservation-friendly livestock rearing needs to be promoted through economic incentives, awareness-raising and technical advice. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.