An assessment of census techniques, habitat use and threats to Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal.
Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis is endemic to the Indian sub-continent, being found in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. It is threatened with extinction and is listed as 'Vulnerable', mainly as a result of habitat degradation and loss. This study investigated the distribution, habitat use, threats and most appropriate method for surveying the species at Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in southeastern Nepal from February to July 2004. The most appropriate method, which recorded the highest number of birds (without double-counting), was identified as point counts undertaken early in the morning during the breeding season. The abundance estimate for the species was 15.5 ± 2.50 birds km-2. Habitat use, as compared with availability, differed significantly between seasons, with Woodland-Grassland and Wet Grassland preferred in the breeding season and summer. Dry Grassland and Woodland were preferred during the monsoon months. On average, 40.4 (± 15.6) people were recorded in the study area each day and there was a general trend for the number of birds to decrease with increasing numbers of people. Each day an average of 31.6 (± 16.7) livestock was recorded in the study area and more than 120 were regularly present throughout the eastern section, although there was no significant relationship between number of cattle and Swamp Francolin. We conclude that as long as the degree and distribution of anthropogenic pressures does not increase, the Swamp Francolin should survive at Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. However, as the species is reliant on different habitats in different seasons, deterioration in the quality or extent of either of these could have a serious impact on the species.