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Ecology and conservation of herons and egrets of Codigoro Ecologia e conservazione della garzaia di Codigoro



Ecology and conservation of herons and egrets of Codigoro Ecologia e conservazione della garzaia di Codigoro



Quaderni della Stazione di Ecologia del Civico Museo di Storia Naturale di Ferrara, 13: 83-96



Breeding of colonial herons and egrets (Ardeinae) depends on suitable nesting habitat and adequate food resources. In the 1970s, the presence of abundant rice fields and a spot of scrubby vegetation allowed the establishment of a mixed heronry inside the abandoned Codigoro's sugar factory. The aims of this paper are: 1) to summarise information available on the breeding colony; 2) to report the results of the study carried out during the reproductive seasons 1999- 2000; 3) to outline factors affecting the breeding of herons and egrets and 4) to suggest possible management options for the conservation of the heronry. Studies carried out since 1981 showed: 1) the regular breeding of Night Herons, Little Egrets and Squacco Herons; 2) the recent colonisation by Cattle Egrets and some occasional reproductions of Great White Egrets; 3) wide fluctuations of colony size and population numbers with highest during the late 1980s - early 1990s and lowest in the 1998-2000 period; 4) nestling food is largely composed by aquatic prey (mostly fish and frogs); 5) rice fields, and to a lesser extent canals, are the main foraging habitat for all the breeding species; 6) spontaneous changes of vegetation characteristics and a progressive shift of rice field distribution farther from the nesting site are the factors negatively affecting the breeding colony. Suggested actions to conserve the heronry include: 1) the management of the existing vegetation (progressive replacement of exotic and undesirable species with local scrubby ones); 2) the remodelling of the settling pond area, actually unused by birds, creating a patch of wet habitats; 3) the creation of permanent foraging areas close to the heronry.

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