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Variation in breeding parameters of Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) and factors affecting its reproductive performance

Abstract

We gathered data for a four-year period (2004–2007) on the nesting ecology and reproductive performance of Eleonora’s falcon in the Aegean Sea. We investigated in an indirect way the relation between clutch size and pre-laying food availability, the significance of site and pair quality on productivity, and the effects of habitat and intraspecific competition on breeding success. Overall, the species selected nest sites sheltered from sun exposure but not from the prevailing wind. Hatching, fledging, and breeding success rates were estimated at 64, 72%, and 60%, respectively. Fledglings per breeding pair ranged from 1.19 to 1.75, and fledglings per successful pair from 1.84 to 2.0, between the years. Productivity depended on parental care rather than nest-site quality. Breeding parameters varied significantly between the years, exhibiting a strong spatial yet local effect. Low success rates were recorded in specific colonies, which were attributed to adverse weather conditions and habitat degradation. Insect food availability prior to egg-laying, estimated via plant biomass, was positively correlated to clutch size. Meanwhile, low wind strengths in August, large distances from the mainland, and population size in the vicinity of the colonies had negative effects on breeding success. Considering data at the Mediterranean scale, a longitudinal trend is observed across the breeding range of this species, with breeding parameters slightly decreasing from west to east.

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Acknowledgments

We would like thank C. Lagouvardos, M. Martinez, I. Mitchell, J. Mayol, A. Badami, and G. Urios for their technical advice; two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript; and C. Grivas, M. Ivovič, M. Hatzikyrkas, A. Christopoulos, E. Gourvelou, G. Katsadorakis, M. Panayotopoulou, C. Viada, G. Vardanis, P. Lymberakis, C. Papakonstantinou, Μ. Gletsos, A. Kastritis, N. Tsiopelas, V. Saravia, and all volunteers and boat captains for their assistance in the field. The study was funded by the European Union (LIFE/03NAT/GR000091) and the Leventis Foundation.

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Correspondence to S. M. Xirouchakis.

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Xirouchakis, S.M., Fric, J., Kassara, C. et al. Variation in breeding parameters of Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) and factors affecting its reproductive performance. Ecol Res 27, 407–416 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-011-0912-6

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Keywords

  • Falco eleonorae
  • Aegean Sea
  • Breeding parameters