Original Article

Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 255-263

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Distribution pattern of an expanding Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) population in a changing environment

  • Mei-Ling BaiAffiliated withCentre for Nature Conservation, Göttingen University Email author 
  • , Daniel SchmidtAffiliated withNABU-Vogelschutzzentrum Mössingen
  • , Eckhard GottschalkAffiliated withCentre for Nature Conservation, Göttingen University
  • , Michael MühlenbergAffiliated withCentre for Nature Conservation, Göttingen University


We studied the nest site selection and distribution pattern at landscape level of the German Osprey population, and demonstrated how to test the predictions of the ideal free distribution theory and its derivatives on such an expanding population. Information about the location and breeding success of each Osprey nest site between 1995 and 2005 was collected through a long-term monitoring programme. Data of land cover types were acquired from the administrations of each federal state and the CORINE Land Cover database. The results showed that Ospreys preferred landscapes with more water bodies and forests. Such sites were also occupied earlier and had higher local population density. However, in the study period of 11 years, there was a gradual shift from forest-dominated landscapes to agricultural land-dominated landscapes. The breeding success increased over time, with no difference in the breeding success between pairs nesting on trees and poles, whereas there was higher breeding success at nest sites surrounded by more agricultural land and less forest. The more efficient foraging in eutrophic lakes in agricultural landscapes was the most likely cause for the higher breeding success. The distribution pattern of the Ospreys did not match the resource allocation, which deviated from the models tested. We suggested that the proximate cues used for nest site selection mismatched site quality due to anthropogenic environmental changes.


Osprey Pandion haliaetus Ideal free distribution Ideal despotic distribution Ideal preemption