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Habitat use by endangered Sichuan Partridges Arborophila rufipectus during the breeding season

Liao, W.B., Fuller, R.A., Hu, J.C. & Li, C. 2008. Habitat use by endangered Sichuan Partridges Arborophila rufipectus during the breeding season. Acta Ornithologica, 43, 179–184.

A detailed understanding of habitat associations of threatened species is essential for the development of sound conservation and habitat management plans. The globally endangered Sichuan Partridge is endemic to montane southwestern China, where it inhabits subtropical broadleaf forest. Its use of various habitats within the forest is poorly known. Habitat use by Sichuan Partridges in Laojunshan Nature Reserve, Sichuan, was studied during the breeding season (April—October). Habitat characteristics at feeding places were compared with randomly selected sites. Auditory detection was used during transect surveys of calling males to locate birds and their feeding scrape sites. Partridges were recorded in primary and secondary broadleaf forest, but not in coniferous plantations or farmland and settlements. Birds occurred between 1400 and 1800 m a. s. l., typically on the ground with a gentle slope of between five and 15 degrees, close to paths and water sources. The habitats used by Sichuan Partridges differed from the random sites in that they had a denser shrub layer, greater tree cover, thicker deciduous leaf depth and lower abundance of bamboo. Principal Components Analysis identified factors interpretable as concealment, topography and leaf litter depth as key axes of variation in Sichuan Partridge habitats. We suggest that habitat management plans incorporating this new information can now focus more effectively on identifying, protecting and restoring those sites within protected areas that are most suitable for the Sichuan Partridge.

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