Habitat selection by 58 ring-necked pheasants Phasianus colchicus was studied using radio-telemetry during the breeding season (March-September) in an intensively farmed region of northern Italy, characterised by only 1.7% of woodland (shelter belt plantations), and a high density of pheasants (30.4 individuals/100 ha in the pre-breeding season). Habitat selection was tested using compositional analysis. We also tested for effects of sex and age, differences between seasonal and daily time periods, and nest site selection. Moreover, relationships between habitat and home-range size were examined. The analysis showed the importance of cover provided by the shelter belts, accounting for 24.7% of radio-locations, which strongly influenced both habitat selection and home-range size. Season affected habitat use with both sexes increasing their use of cropland in summer; in late summer cropland not only provides food (both vegetation and arthropods) but also cover. We did not find significant differences between habitats selected for nesting and other habitats used by hens. We found a clear negative correlation between distance from shelter belts and use by pheasants, with only 1% of radio-locations >800 m from shelter belts. Our results suggest that the introduction of arboreal shelter belt plantations in the countryside, set maximum 1,600 m apart, may improve habitat quality for pheasants.
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Vol. 5 • No. 1