Nest site selection and nest losses of Cabot's tragopan in Wuyanling Natural Reserve, China.
The Cabot's tragopan Tragopan caboti is an endangered species of pheasant which occurs only in south-eastern China. There were no published descriptions of the life history of this pheasant until recent years (Zheng et al. 1985, 1986a, 1986b; Zheng 1987; Zhang & Zheng 1988). A survey of this species in China indicated that wild populations have declined drastically in most areas since the 1950s. In order to conserve this endangered pheasant, it seems necessary to investigate the factors affecting populations and to postulate which have caused wild tragopans to decrease.
Animal population density is determined by natality, mortality and dispersal. In galliform birds there is much evidence that the hen can select a specific nest-site and the quality of nesting habitat can effect both nesting success and breeding density (Jenkins et al. 1963, Jones 1984). Studies on grey partridge Perdix perdix and red legged partridge Alectoris rufa indicated that some aspects of nesting habitat quality determine the breeding densities of partridges (Rands 1982, 1988). A previous study on Cabot's tragopan found that the hens nested in trees and many nests were lost during incubation (Zheng et al. 1985). Therefore nest loss is likely to be one of the most important factors affecting wild tragopan populations.
This paper presents the results of our study on nest-site selection and nesting losses conducted in Wuyanling Natural Reserve in 1984-1987. The aim of this study was to find: 1) in which habitats the tragopans nested, 2) how many nests were lost, and 3) what was the main cause of these losses?