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Journal of Ornithology

, 151:1 | Cite as

Wide-range dispersal in juvenile Eagle Owls (Bubo bubo) across the European Alps calls for transnational conservation programmes

  • Adrian Aebischer
  • Peter Nyffeler
  • Raphaël Arlettaz
Original Article

Abstract

Although juvenile dispersal is an important life history component, it remains one of the less understood ecological processes regulating the dynamics of animal populations. Lack of information about patterns of dispersal hampers the estimation of the actual status and demographic trajectory of populations, and can preclude the development of sound conservation strategies. The Eagle Owl Bubo bubo is an endangered bird species in the European Alps. Many breeding sites have been abandoned in the twentieth century, although some recovery has been reported lately. Moreover, the occupancy of traditional breeding sites across years in well-monitored Alpine populations varies a lot, this despite a relatively high breeding success at the population level. This raises concern about the long-term persistence of Alpine populations. Using conventional and satellite radiotracking, we investigated the spatio-temporal dispersal of 41 juvenile Eagle Owls originating from a population in the southwestern Swiss Alps. Our main goal was to determine dispersal distances, places and times of post-dispersal settlement. Juveniles left their parents between mid-August and mid-November. They covered, on average, 12.7 km per night (linear distance between two consecutive day roosts), often crossing high mountain ranges (up to 3,000 m altitude). The mean total distance covered by an individual during dispersal was 102 km (sum of night movements), with a maximum of 230 km. Settlement places were, on average, 46 km distant from the birth place. Our study establishes long-distance dispersal in juvenile Eagle Owls, even in a complex topography, suggesting the existence of a wide-scale metapopulation system across the northwestern Alps. This metapopulation dimension should be accounted for in conservation plans.

Keywords

Alps Bubo bubo Floater Juvenile dispersal Satellite telemetry 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The present study was funded by grants from the MAVA Foundation for the Protection of Nature, by the Loterie Romande, by the Zürcher Tierschutz and by the Swiss Ornithological Institute. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Rita Roux foundation, the Museum of Natural History in Fribourg and the Cercle Ornithologique de Fribourg. Many thanks to S. Mettaz, P. Grand, N. Jordan, J.-L. Abbet, F. Desmet, S. Koch, R. Lardelli, R. Bionda, G. Rochat, C. Grand and V. Dupuis for assistance in field work and for reporting their observations. We are grateful to B. Muffat-Joly and M. Arvin-Berod from the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage for the many field controls they made in Haute-Savoie. Thanks also to the gamekeepers from the cantons of Valais, Vaud and Bern for various forms of collaboration and to the Swiss Ornithological Institute that made available the ring recovery data from their archive. Finally, we thank V. Penteriani and L. Dalbeck for their valuable comments on the manuscript. Licences statement: this study has been carried out in full compliance with the Swiss legislation under licence from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and the cantonal Game and Fishery Services of Valais and Vaud, and following the guidelines for the use of free-ranging, wild animals in research.

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Aebischer
    • 1
  • Peter Nyffeler
    • 1
  • Raphaël Arlettaz
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swiss Ornithological Institute, Valais Field StationNature CentreSalgeschSwitzerland
  3. 3.The Ecology CentreUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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