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Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 27(1): 53–55. SHORT-COMMUNIC ARTICLE ATION March 2019 Aggregations of Southern Caracaras (Caracara plancus s s) in soybean plantations in central Cerrado, Brazil 1,2 Dárius Pukenis Tubelis Departamento de Biociências, Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Árido, Campus Mossoró, Mossoró, RN, Brazil. Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org Received on 15 October 2018. Accepted on 12 March 2019. ABSTRACT: This study reports on large aggregations of Southern Caracaras ( Caracara plancus s s) in soybean plantations in the surroundings of Parque Nacional das Emas, southwestern Brazil. Observations were done during harvesting activities in February 2009. Aggregations were found by driving a vehicle through roads that crossed or bordered soybean plantations located at less than 4 km from this park. For each aggregation detected, individuals found around harvesting machines were counted. The abundance o f Southern Caracaras of each aggregation ranged between 76 and 104 individuals (n = 8). Despite the attraction of high numbers of caracaras to proximities of machines, most of them appear to do not obtain much food resources during harvesting of soybean fi elds. Caracaras were seen capturing small mammals, lizards, birds and large insects. This association between C. plancus and harvesting activities can be considered as opportunist behavior in response to rapid modification of grain-production landscapes in the Cerrado. KEY-W W WORDS: agribusiness, bird, Falconidae, feeding ecology, grassland, savanna. In the Cerrado, the savanna ecosystem that dominates plantations (pers. obs.). This study aimed to re port on central Brazil, landscapes were originally dominated large aggregations of the Southern Caracara in soybean by open vegetation such as grasslands and woodlands plantations during harvesting operations in a central (Oliveira & Marquis 2002). However, extensive areas of Brazilian Cerrado. these matrix types have been converted to agricultural Observations were done in the surroundings of o o o land during the last three decades (Klink & Machado Parque Nacional das Emas s (17 49'S–18 28'S; 52 39'W– o 2 2005). As consequence, numerous landscapes are now 53 10'W), a 1330 km nature reserve located in Goiás covered mainly by exotic vegetation such as soybean state, central Cerrado, southwestern Brazil. Elevations plantations (Klink & Moreira 2002). Despite this range between 720 and 900 m a.s.l., and most of the dramatic modifi cation of landscapes, the use of soybean original landscape consists of flat tableland covered b y plantations by native wildlife remains poorly investigated grasslands and open woodlands (França et al. 2007). in the Cerrado. Climate is marked by two well defined periods, wet Some bird species, such as the Southern Caracara and dry seasons. Most of the annual precipitation falls (Caracara plancus s s) can be occasionally found in soybean between October and March. Annual rainfall ranges fi elds (pers. obs.). Th is raptor species is associated to between 1200 and 2000 mm (Assad 1994). The park is open vegetation and human-modifi ed landscapes in the mostly surrounded by agricultural land, such as soybean, Neotropical region (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001, cotton and corn plantations. Soybean plantations usually Erize et al. 2006, Sazima 2007). It is usually found in occur between early November and late February and a landscape elements such as grasslands, savannas, pastures, single stand might cover several km (pers. obs.). agricultural fields, roads and urban areas (del Hoyo Cultivation and harvesting of soybean fields in et al. 1994, Sick 1997, Narosky & Yzurieta 2006). Its the study area are made mechanically. Large machines omnivorous diet includes a wide range of alive and (colheitadeiras s) usually harvest plantations in mid or late dead animals, plants and human-made food (Wallace & February. To harvest a given stand, these machines are Temple 1987, Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001, Travaini usually driven straight for about 600–2000 m and then et al. 2001, Galetti & Guimarães-Jr. 2004, Vargas et moved in opposite way, to pass over juxtaposed areas of al. 2007). In the Cerrado, lone birds or pairs of this plantations still not harvested. Thus, bands of clear cuts species often feed on the ground of open areas (Antas & (harvested areas) of about 10 m in width are created in Cavalcanti 1988), including the consumption of rodents, sequence. lizards, beetles and grasshoppers in harvested soybean Observations were done during afternoons between Aggregations of Caracara plancus s in soybean plantations Tubelis and other regions were mostly done through transect 17 and 22 February 2009, when most soybean plantations routes. For example, its density at Parque Nacional in this Cerrado region were being harvested. To search das Emas s was estimated as 2.8 ± 1.6 individuals/km for caracara aggregations associated with harvesting activities, I drove a vehicle through roads that crossed or (Baumgarten 1998). In the Venezuelan Llanos, Jensen et bordered soybean plantations located at less than 4 km al. (2005) reported less than 20 birds per 22.5 km long counts. Similar surveys conducted in other landscapes from the park. When harvesting machines surrounded by reported comparable or lower densities (Albuquerque et numerous caracaras were detected, I left the vehicle and al. 1986, Hayes 1991, Carvalho & Marini 2007). Thus, approached them by walking. Caracaras located around the harvesting machines were counted. Usually, I spent the aggregations reported in the current study are the about 10 min for each aggregation and I could get at less highest densities of foraging C. plancus s recorded to date, as they usually kept within an area of about 10 ha around than 200 m from most of the individuals, which were the machines. easily seen from this distance (Fig. 1). During the removal of soybean vegetation, caracaras Eight large aggregations of C. plancus s associated with machines harvesting soybean fields were recorded. tended to keep on the ground of recently harvested fields. The numbers of individuals detected in each a ggregation Most of them usually kept nearly stopped watching the machine or walking slowly in search of food resources were: 96, 104, 76, 85, 94, 88, 79 and 82. Studies in the on the ground, as commonly observed in South America Cerrado and elsewhere reported that C. plancus s usually (Sazima 2007). Relatively few individuals followed the forages solitary or in pairs, while groups of three to nine birds have been recorded sporadically (Whitacre et al. machines for a few meters by flyin g or running short 1982, Antas & Cavacanti 1988, Yosef & Yosef 1992, del distances in an attempt to capture animals fl ushed due the disturbance on vegetation. Similarly, Sick (1997) Hoyo et al. 1994, Sick 1997, Goldstein & Hibbitts 2004). reported the following of tractors by this raptor species Th ese numbers are comparable to those found by myself in search of earthworms during fi eld plowing in Brazil. in young soybean plantations in the study area during late 2006 and 2008. In relation to the aggregations reported Th e consumption of soybean grains by caracaras in this study, most caracaras foraged lonely or in pairs, has not been observed in this study. On few occasions, caracaras were observed obtaining food resources and not cooperatively as reported by Jones (1999) for (unidentifi ed rodents, lizards, birds and large insects, the Mountain Caracara (Phalcoboenus megalopterus s s) in such as beetles and grasshoppers). After holding prey Peru. Additionally, in his review of the feeding habits of C. plancus, Sazima (2007) also reported that this species with the bill, caracaras left the aggregations. Likely, these follows ploughs in South America. As social learning prey were injured or incapacitated by machines. Despite the recording of these feeding events, food availability of foraging in birds might occur by the observation of appeared to not be plentiful in the areas being harvested. conspecifi cs at feedings sites (see review in Slagsvold & Th is is because most individuals observed in detail after the Wiebe 2011), it is possible that these raptors were able to associate moving machines to the availability of food 10 min counting periods have not obtained food items. items during harvesting operations. Th is low number of feeding events recorded might not result of the short period of sampling in each plantation. Estimates of abundance of C. plancus s in the Cerrado I consider that, as these raptors were numerous, I would often record foraging birds if food items were abundant, even during a short period. Th us, despite the attraction of outstanding numbers of caracaras to the surrounding of active machines, most caracaras did not obtain large amounts of food during the harvest of soybean fi elds. Th is observed low consumption of food items by this raptor species in the studied plantations might result, in part, of applications of agrochemicals to soybean plants. This practice might cause the killing of the invertebrates and vertebrates that arrive in plantations. Further, as the studied plantations were usually at more than 2 km from the park and other native remnants, it is likely that few animals could colonize these exotic fi elds. Figure 1. Numerous Southern Caracaras (Caracara plancus s s) Th is is because I could observe a few caracaras, attracted by harvesting activities in soybean fields close to groups of the Greater Rhea Rhea americana, and pairs Parque Nacional das Emas, southwestern Brazil, in February of the Yellow-headed Caracara Milvago chimachima, the Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 27(1): 2019 Aggregations of Caracara plancus s in soybean plantations Tubelis Erize F., Mata J.R.R. & Rumboll M. 2006. Birds of South America: Red-legged Seriema Cariama cristata, the Burrowing Owl non-Passerines: rheas to woodpeckers. Oxford: Princeton University Athene cunicularia a and the Southern Lapwing Vanellus Press. chilensis s eating numerous prey consecutively by following Ferguson-Lees J. & Christie D.A. 2001. Raptors of the world d d. Boston: a machine in early 2007. On this occasion, these birds were Houghton Mifflin Company. at less than 100 m from the park, where agrochemicals França H., Ramos-Neto M.B. & Setzer A. 2007. O fogo no Parque Nacional das Emas. Brasília: Ministério do Meio Ambiente. were not applied due an agreement between the land Galetti M. & Guimarães-Jr. P.R. 2004. Seed dispersal of Attalea owner and the park manager. Therefore, I consider that phalerata a (Palmae) by Crested Caracaras (Caracara plancus s s) in the these bands of plantations free of agrochemicals located Pantanal and a review of frugivory by raptors. Revista Brasileira de adjacent to park boundaries could be colonized by Ornitologia a 12: 133–135. Goldstein M.I. & Hibbitts T.J. 2004. Summer roadside raptor surveys numerous invertebrates and vertebrates due to a short in the western Pampas of Argentina. Journal of Raptor Research distance from native areas of the park. 38: 152–157. Th e experience with great food availability as result Hayes F.E. 1991. Raptor densities along the Paraguay River: seasonal, of machine movement juxtaposed to the park might geographical and time of day variation. Journal of Raptor Research 25: 101–108. explain this aggregation of caracaras in the studied Jensen W.J., Gregory M.S., Baldassarre G.A., Villela F.J. & Bildstein fields and elsewhere due to learning. Further studies K.L. 2005. Raptor abundance and distribution in the Llanos are necessary to verify if this opportunist behavior of C. wetlands of Venezuela. Journal of Raptor Research h 39: 417–428. plancus s in response to rapid modification of agricultural Jones J. 1999. Cooperative foraging in the Mountain Caracara in Peru. Wilson Bulletin 111: 437–439. landscapes in the Cerrado is leading to their intoxication. Klink C.A. & Machado R.B. 2005. Conservation of the Brazilian Cerrado. Conservation Biology 19: 707–713. Klink C.A. & Moreira A.G. 2002. Past and current human occupation, ACK K KNO O OWLEDGEMENTS and land use, p. 69–88. 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Caracara. Journal of Raptor Research h 26: 100–101. Embrapa. 2018. Embrapa soja. https://www.embrapa.br/soja a (Access on 10 October 2018). Associate Editor: Marcos P. Dantas. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 27(1): 2019
Ornithology Research – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 1, 2019
Keywords: agribusiness; bird; Falconidae; feeding ecology; grassland; savanna
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