Spatial heterogeneity and structure of bird populations: A case example with the eagle owl

  • Penteriani V
  • Delgado M
  • Gallardo M
 et al. 
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If individuals of the same population inhabit territories different in landscape structure and composition, experiencing habitat-specific demographic rates, then the landscape features become major determinants of the overall population characteristics. Few studies have tested how habitat-specific demography interacts with landscape heterogeneity to affect populations of territorial species. Here we report a 29-year study of an eagle owl (Bubo bubo) population in southern France. The aim of this study was to analyse how habitat heterogeneity could affect density and breeding performance. Mean productivity for the overall sample was 1.69 +/- 0.76 fledglings per breeding pair and, after controlling for year effect, significant differences between territories were detected for productivity. A positive correlation was found between the percentage of pairs producing 50% of the annual fledged young (an index of the distribution of fecundity among nesting territories) and the mean reproductive outputs, that is the heterogeneous structure of the population determined that most/all pairs contributed to the annual production of young during good years, but the opposite during poor years (i.e. fewer pairs produced the majority of fledglings). Mean reproductive output was positively affected by percentage of open country and diet richness. Although other factors different to territory quality could affect demography parameters (e.g. quality of breeders), our results clearly showed a significant correlation between landscape features and population productivity.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bird populations
  • Breeding performance
  • Coefficient of variation
  • Eagle owl (Bubo bubo)
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Territory quality

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