A long-term large-scale study of the breeding biology of the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti)
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Margalida, A., González, L.M., Sánchez, R. et al. J Ornithol (2007) 148: 309. doi:10.1007/s10336-007-0133-5
We present data from a 17-year study of the population biology of a growing population of Spanish imperial eagles Aquila adalberti across most of its breeding range. The objective of this study was to analyse the effects of age, supplemental feeding and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) on several breeding parameters of this population of eagles. Average clutch size was 2.2 eggs per clutch, and the average incubation time was 41.7 days per clutch. Fledging occurred an average of 76.8 days after hatching, the length of the fledgling period was not correlated to clutch size. The annual average percentage of pairs laying eggs was 88%. A significant reduction in the percentage of pairs laying eggs in the period 1992–1994 (from 91 to 81%) coincided with most of the eagles’ territories being affected by the rabbit epizootic disease, RHD, which reduced their food supply significantly. Average productivity was 1.23 chicks per monitored territory, average breeding success was 1.40 chicks in a clutch per territory and the average fledging rate was 1.69 chicks per territory with hatching success. The main known causes of breeding failure during incubation were nest collapse and human disturbance. During chick-rearing, total or partial chick losses were mainly caused by siblicide, disease, malnutrition or nest collapse. In 26.2% of the 1372 monitored breeding attempts, at least one of the breeding birds was a subadult (the male in 56.1% of the cases, the female in 15.5% and both sexes in 28.4% of cases). In cases of mixed-aged pairs (n = 205), 70.7% were the result of a substitution, and 29.3% were the result of the forming of a new pair. Egg laying took place significantly earlier and breeding success was higher in territories occupied by adults than in those occupied by subadults. Breeding parameters were higher in high-quality (rabbit-rich) territories than in low-quality (rabbit-poor) territories, but only for those territories occupied by adults. The values obtained in the territories occupied by adults were only significantly higher than in those of the subadults in high-quality territories. Age and territory quality thus simultaneously affected reproductive output.