The European avifauna on agricultural land has been permanently diminished over the past few decades. This phenomenon is clearly connected with agricultural intensification and the recent land cover changes. The main aims of this study were to identify the land cover preferences of a farmland bird species, the Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis in Hungary and investigate the link between the recent trend of the abundance of this species and the land-cover change. We employed GIS and statistical methods to assess the link between the abundance of this species based on the Hungarian common bird monitoring database (MMM) and the spatial proportion of the Corine Land Cover (CLC) categories in different buffer zones with 300, 600 and 1200 m from the observation points. Based on the significant statistical connections, we could identify and select land cover categories that serve as habitats and land cover categories that this bird species does not inhabit. The land cover preference of the Eurasian Skylark, in case of some land cover category, is depending on the grain scale (circle radius distance from the observation points). In analyses arable lands has been omitted because this land cover type is the well-known habitat of the species. According to our results, the Eurasian Skylark prefers permanent crops (vineyards, fruit trees and berry plantations) inside 600m and 1200m buffer zones, and pastures inside 1200m buffer zones, while it does not prefer urban fabric areas and heterogeneous agricultural, forests, and wetlands or water bodies inside 300m and 600m, scrub and/or herbaceous vegetation associations (transitional woodland-shrub and natural grassland areas) inside the 600m and 1200m radius buffer areas. The identification of these regional (European level) land-cover categories allowed us to analyse the recent (1990–2012) and the predicted (2006–2050) characteristics of habitat changes of this bird species, associated with land cover change. Based on our results, we could estimate that the Skylark habitat will decrease by 188 560 ha between 2006–2050 in Hungary.
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Vol. 54 • No. 1