Breeding ecology of the Iranian ground jay (Podoces pleskei)
Although Podoces pleskei is the only endemic bird of Iran, little information exists on its ecological features, population dynamics and threats that concern it. This species occurs in desert and semi desert areas, mostly on the Iranian plateau, though its range spreads southeast ward to the Iran- Pakistan border. In this research, a total of 52 nests were studied in three locations, the “Ghare Tappe”, “Marvast” and “Mehrano” region, from 2005 to 2008. Breeding habits, nest characteristics, hatching features, clutch size, length of incubation time, nesting period and features of the chicks were observed in the three locations and were analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA). To compare breeding success among the three study areas, Z test was applied. This bird builds its nest at the top of and within the denser parts of plants, particularly Atraphaxis spinosa, Ephedra intermedia and Zygophyllum eurypterum. At times of danger, they hide beneath shrubs. Z-tests showed that the breeding success of this bird varied between Marvast and Mehrano. The greatest cause of nest failure and chick mortality was the transcaspian desert monitor (Varanus griseus caspius), which feeds on the eggs and chicks.
Key words: Breeding ecology, Pleske’s ground jay, nest characteristics, clutch size, nest success, threat.