, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 729-736
Date: 04 Jan 2011

The feeding ecology of Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata ) floaters in southern Spain: implications for conservation

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Although many studies have investigated the feeding habits of Palaearctic raptors, few have analysed non-breeding populations during dispersal. Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), a threatened species in Western Europe, has a relatively long and critical dispersal period. We studied feeding habits, prey selection, and the influence of prey density on floater abundance in this species during its dispersal period in southern Spain. Differences were found between the diet of floaters and that of the closest breeding populations. Diet diversity was rather low for floaters, with European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) being the main prey and the only prey positively selected. Moreover, the number of floater Bonelli’s eagles observed in the dispersal areas was positively associated with rabbit abundance. Other prey included red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) and pigeons (Columba sp.). We propose measures to match suitable prey availability for floater eagles in settlement areas and the use of such areas as human hunting fields.