Arlettaz Raphaël

Ecological requirements of the threatened Ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana in temperate Europe (Swiss Alps) and in the Mediterranean (Catalonia) 

Project Number: Parcs Data Center 9902 / 4D: CH-4855
Project Type: Master
Project Duration: 04/01/2008 - 11/30/2008 project completed
Funding Source: other ,
Leading Institution: Universität Bern
Project Leader: Prof. Raphaël Arlettaz
Division of Conservation Biology
Institut für Ökologie und Evolution
Universität Bern
Baltzerstrasse 6
3012 Bern
Phone: +41 (0) 31 631 31 61 ; +41 (0) 31 631 45 11
FAX: +41 (0) 31 631 45 35
e-Mail: raphael.arlettaz(at)

related to this project.
for which the project has a relevance.

Research Areas:


Emberiza hortulana, Generalised linear mixed models, Habitat selection modelling, Population decline, Prey availability, Species conservation

The Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana has undergone a general decline across much of western Europe in recent decades. In Switzerland, the species is now extinct in farmland, and only one population remains in sub-
Mediterranean shrub-steppe habitats on the south-facing slopes of the Rhône Valley (Valais).

We aimed to collect data on foraging ecology of the last Swiss Ortolan Buntings during reproduction; however, we found only nine singing males in 2007, and no sign of reproduction. We investigated foraging habitat selection of unpaired males on the meso and micro-scales, and compared patterns of foraging habitat preferences with patterns of food abundance.

All radio-tracked birds foraged exclusively on the plain. The adjacent slope, which harboured the former breeding grounds, was used only for territorial song displays. All males showed a preference for conventional corn fields that
had been treated with herbicide, while also exhibiting an avoidance of meadows and riparian vegetation.

Structurally, it was shown that birds foraged in areas with a high proportion of bare soil, as well as moderately dense overhead vegetation. These areas did not support higher arthropod food supplies, suggesting that food accessibility (and / or vegetation shelter) rather than food abundance dictates habitat selection.

It remains to be seen whether these microhabitat preferences also apply to breeding Ortolan Buntings. Further
work in southern European breeding grounds should be envisioned to gain crucial information about the ecological requirements of Ortolan Buntings in Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean habitats.

Leading questions:
How unpaired male Ortolan Buntings select foraging habitat during the breeding season?
Is there a link between preferred foraging habitat and prey availability?

Menz, Myles. 2008. Ecological requirements of the threatened Ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana in temperate Europe (Swiss Alps) and in the Mediterranean (Catalonia). Masterarbeit, Universität Bern.
pdf Masterarbeit

Menz, Myles & Arlettaz, Raphal. (2012). The precipitous decline of the ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana: Time to build on scientific evidence to inform conservation management. Oryx. 46. 122-129.
pdf Artikel

Last update: 4/5/22
Source of data: ProClim- Research InfoSystem (1993-2024)
Update the data of project: CH-4855

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