Investigating the breeding ecology of waterbirds in the Mediterranean is essential for understanding their population dynamics and for conservation purposes. Here, the reproductive parameters of the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) were investigated in Boughrara Lagoon, a poorly known breeding area in southeastern Tunisia. In total, 152 nests were monitored April-July 2014 from egg-laying to hatching. The nesting period extended from late April to late June, showing three distinct peaks. All nests were constructed < 2 m from the ground in nitre shrubs (Nitraria retusa). Clutch size ranged from 2 to 5 eggs, with a modal clutch of 4 eggs. Average egg volume (± SE) was 25.11 ± 0.08 cm3, which is within the range of known values for the species studied. Using the Mayfield method, hatching rate was estimated at 71%. Our results showed that clutch size and hatching success decreased as the breeding season progressed. This seasonal decrease in breeding performance is in agreement with the general trend in waterbirds and could be explained by the poorer quality of late breeders compared to early ones, or alternatively to the deterioration of environmental conditions late in the breeding season.
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Vol. 42 • No. 3