Ecological Research

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 181–190 | Cite as

Motion capacity, geography and ecological features explain the present distribution of a migratory top predator

  • Michele PanuccioEmail author
  • Giuseppe Lucia
  • Nicolantonio Agostini
  • Dario Ottonello
  • Giuseppe Bogliani
Original Article


Presence and distribution of ecological barriers shapes the distribution of migratory birds as well as any other living organism. In Italy, short-toed snake eagles (Circaetus gallicus) breed in the northern and western areas of the peninsula but the species is rare in the south or the islands. The Italian population of this species migrates across the Mediterranean at the Strait of Gibraltar rather than crossing the large stretch of sea between Sicily and Tunisia. This suggests that, in Italy, fall migration is oriented south–north and spring migration north–south. In this paper we test the hypothesis that the accessibility of the suitable habitat area along the Italian Peninsula is in relation to the geographical migration pattern of the studied species. We integrated information from the movement ecology, the geography and the traditional ecological features in order to provide an ecological explanation of the current biogeographical pattern of our model species. We compared statistical models with and without latitude as a predictor. Each model was based on ecological and geographical variables, including land use, prey availability, spatial distribution of environmental elements (patch analysis), geomorphology, and geography. These models predict two patterns of suitability for short-toed snake eagles in Italy. Our results suggest that the abundance of this species increases with latitude despite the existence of large areas of suitable habitat in southern Italy. We suggest that the actual distribution of the short-toed snake eagle in Italy is influenced by the particular migration path used by this population, supporting the hypothesis that this species is still colonizing the Italian Peninsula through an unexpected colonization direction from north to south.


Colonization direction Accessibility Migratory detour Ecological barriers Short-toed snake eagle Circaetus gallicus Italy 



We wish to thank Massimo Campora, Guido Cattaneo, Ugo Mellone and Paolo Forconi for their help in providing data of short-toed snake eagles presence and the Societas Herpetologica Italica (SHI) for allowing to use the data of prey species richness. We are grateful to Simona Tarantino for her assistance in setting out the figures. We appreciate the improvements in English usage made by Christina Riehl through the Association of Field Ornithologists’ program of editorial assistance. MEDRAPTORS ( is a network of ornithologists that works to improve research and conservation of migrating birds of prey.

Supplementary material

11284_2014_1226_MOESM1_ESM.docx (55 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 55 kb)


  1. Agostini N, Baghino L, Coleiro C, Corbi F, Premuda G (2002a) Circuitous autumn migration in the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus). J Raptor Res 36:111–114Google Scholar
  2. Agostini N, Baghino L, Panuccio M, Premuda G (2002b) A conservative strategy in migrating short-toed eagles (Circaetus gallicus). Ardeola 49:287–291Google Scholar
  3. Agostini N, Baghino L, Panuccio M, Premuda G, Provenza N (2004) The autumn migration strategies of juvenile and adult short-toed eagles (Circaetus gallicus) in the Central Mediterranean. Avocetta 28:37–40Google Scholar
  4. Agostini N, Mellone U (2008) Does migration flyway of short-toed snake-eagles breeding in central Italy reflect the colonization history? J Raptor Res 42:158–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alerstam T (1990) Bird migration. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Alerstam T, Enckell PH (1979) Unpredictable habitats and evolution of bird migration. Oikos 33:228–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alerstam T, Hedenström A, Åkesson S (2003) Long-distance migration: evolution and determinants. Oikos 103:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Arrigoni degli Oddi E (1929) Ornitologia italiana. Hoepli, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  9. Baghino L, Premuda G (2007) Nuovi dati sulla migrazione primaverile “a circuito” del biancone, Circaetus gallicus, in Italia. Avocetta 31:70–72Google Scholar
  10. Bakaloudis DE (2009) Implications for conservation of foraging sites selected by short-toed eagles (Circaetus gallicus) in Greece. Ornis Fennica 86:89–96Google Scholar
  11. Bakaloudis DE, Vlachos CG, Holloway GJ (1998) Habitat use by short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus and reptilian prey during the breeding season in Dadia Forest (north-eastern Greece). J Appl Ecol 35:821–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bakaloudis DE, Vlachos CG, Holloway GJ (2005) Nest spacing and breeding performance in short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus in northeast Greece. Bird Study 52:330–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Begon M, Townsend CR, Harper JL (2006) Ecology: from individuals to ecosystem, 4th edn. Blackwell publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Berthold P (2001) Bird migration. A general survey. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  15. Bionda R, Bordignon L (2006) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti del Verbano Cusio Ossola. Quaderni Natura e Paesaggio del VCOGoogle Scholar
  16. Birdlife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Birdlife Conservation series No. 12, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Boano A, Brunelli M, Bulgarini A, Montemaggiori A, Sarrocco S, Visentin M (1995) Atlante degli Uccelli nidificanti nel Lazio. Alula 1–2: volume specialeGoogle Scholar
  18. Böhning-Gaese K, Oberrath R (2003) Macroecology of habitat choice in long-distance migratory birds. Oecologia 137:296–303PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Bon M, Cherubini G, Semenzato M, Stival E (1999) Atlante Degli uccelli nidificanti in Provincia di Venezia. SGE, PadovaGoogle Scholar
  20. Bordignon L (2004) Gli Uccelli della Provincia di Novara. Provincia di NovaraGoogle Scholar
  21. Brandmayr P (2002) Ambienti e fauna nel paesaggio italiano. In: Minelli A et al (eds) La fauna in Italia. Touring editions, Torino, pp 30–45Google Scholar
  22. Brichetti P, Fasola M (1990) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti in Lombardia 1983–1987. Editoriale Ramperto, BresciaGoogle Scholar
  23. Bruderer B, Salewski V (2008) Evolution of bird migration in a biogeographical context. J Biogeogr 35:1951–1959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Bustamante J, Seoane J (2004) Predicting the distribution of four species of raptors (Aves: Accipitridae) in southern Spain: statistical models work better than existing maps. J Biogeogr 31:295–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Campora M, Cattaneo G (2006) II Biancone Circaetus gallicus in Italia. Riv Ital Orn 76:1–46Google Scholar
  26. Clinchy M, Haydon DT, Smith AT (2002) Pattern does not equal process: what does patch occupancy really tell us about metapopulation dynamics? Am Nature 159:351–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Cramp S, Simmons KEL (1980) The birds of the Western Palearctic, vol II. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  28. Cumming GS, Gaidet N, Ndlovu M (2012) Towards a unification of movement ecology and biogeography: conceptual framework and a case study on Afrotropical ducks. J Biogeogr 39:1401–1411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. De’ath G, Fabricius KE (2000) Classification and regression trees: a powerful yet simple technique for ecological data analysis. Ecology 81:3178–3192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dunham JB, Rieman BE (1999) Metapopulation structure of bull trout: influence of physical, biotic, and geometrical landscape characteristics. Ecol Appl 9:642–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Elith J, Graham CH, Anderson RP, NCEAS Modeling Group (2006) Novel methods improve prediction of species’ distributions from occurrence data. Ecography 29:129–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Elith J, Leathwick JR, Hastie T (2008) A working guide to boosted regression trees. J Anim Ecol 77:802–813PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Elkie PC, Rempel RS, Car AP (1999) Patch Analyst User’s Manual. NWST Technical Manual. Ont Min Nat Resour Northwest Sci Technol. Thunder Bay, Ontario TM–002Google Scholar
  34. Evans KL, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2005) Species energy relationships at the macroecological scale: a review of the mechanisms. Biol Rev 80:1–25PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ferguson-Lees J, Christie DA (2001) Raptors of the World. Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Fracasso G, Verza E, Boschetti E (2003) Atlante degli Uccelli nidificanti in provincia di Rovigo. Provincia di RovigoGoogle Scholar
  37. Fraissinet M, Kalby M (1989) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti in Campania (1983–1987), Monografia n. 1. ASOIM, SalernoGoogle Scholar
  38. Friedman JH, Hastie T, Tibshirani R (2000) Additive logistic regression: a statistical view of boosting. Ann Stat 28:337–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gellini S, Ceccarelli PP (2000) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti nelle province di Forlì-Cesena e Ravenna (1995–1997). S.T.E.R.N.A., Amministrazioni Provinciali di Forlì-Cesena e RavennaGoogle Scholar
  40. Giacchini P (2007) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti nella provincia di Ancona. Provincia di AnconaGoogle Scholar
  41. Gil JM, Pleguezuelos JM (2001) Prey and prey-size selection by the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) during the breeding season in Granada (south-eastern Spain). J Zool 255:131–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gruppo Vicentino Studi Ornitologici “NISORIA” (1994) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti nella Provincia di Vicenza. Gilberto Padovan Editore, VicenzaGoogle Scholar
  43. Hagemeijer WJM, Blair MJ (1997) The EBCC atlas of European breeding birds: their distribution and abundance. T. and A.D. Poyser, LondonGoogle Scholar
  44. Handrinos G, Akriotis T (1997) The birds of Greece. Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  45. Hanski I (1998) Metapopulation dynamics. Nature 396:41–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hanski I, Pakkala T, Kuussaari M, Lei G (1995) Metapopulation persistence of an endangered butterfly in a fragmented landscape. Oikos 72:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Henningsson SS, Alerstam T (2005a) Barriers and distances as determinants for the evolution of bird migration links: the arctic shorebird system. Proc R Soc B 272:2251–2258PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Henningsson SS, Alerstam T (2005b) Patterns and determinants of shorebird species richness in the circumpolar Arctic. J Biogeogr 32:383–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Hooghiemstra H, Le´zine AM, Leroy SAG, Dupont L, Marret F (2006) Late Quaternary palynology in marine sediments: a synthesis of the understanding of pollen distribution patterns in the NW African setting. Quat Int 148:29–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ientile R, Massa B (2008) Atlante della biodiversità della Sicilia. Vertebrati Terrestri. Cap. 2 Uccelli (Aves). Collana Studi e Ricerche dell’ARPA Sicilia, PalermoGoogle Scholar
  51. Jahn AE, Levey DJ, Smith KG (2004) Reflections across hemispheres: a system-wide approach to new world bird migration. Auk 121:1005–1013CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kerlinger P (1989) Flight strategies of migrating hawks. Chicago University Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  53. Kirwan GM, Boyla KA, Castell P, Demirci B, Özen M, Welch H, Marlow T (2008) The birds of Turkey. Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  54. La Gioia G (2009) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti in provincia di Lecce (2000–2007). Edizioni del Grifo, LecceGoogle Scholar
  55. Leathwick JR, Elith J, Francis MP, Hastie T, Taylor P (2006) Variation in demersal fish species richness in the oceans surrounding New Zealand: an analysis using boosted regression trees. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 321:267–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lomolino MV, Brown JH, Davis R (1989) Island biogeography of montane forest mammals in the American southwest. Ecology 70:180–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. López-Iborra G, Limiñana R, Pavon D, Martinez-Perez J (2011) Modelling the distribution of short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) in semi-arid Mediterranean landscapes: identifying important explanatory variables and their implications for its conservation. Eur J Wildlife Res 57:83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lucifero A (1898) Avifauna Calabra. Elenco delle specie di uccelli sedentari o di passaggio in Calabria. Avicula, SienaGoogle Scholar
  59. Manly BFJ, McDonald LL, Thomas DL, McDonald TL, Erickson WP (2002) Resource selection by animals: statistical design and analysis for field studies, 2nd edn. Kluwer Academic Publisher, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  60. Mañosa S (2003) Aguila culebrera, Circaetus gallicus. In: Martí R, Del Moral JC (eds) Atlas de las Aves Reproductoras de España. Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza, Sociedad Española de Ornitología, pp 172–173Google Scholar
  61. Mayr E, Meise W (1930) Theoretisches zur Geschichte des Vogelzuges. Vogelzug 1:149–172Google Scholar
  62. Mellone U, Limiñana R, Mallìa E, Urios V (2011) Extremely detoured migration in an inexperienced bird: interplay of transport costs and social interactions. J Avian Biol 42:468–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Meschini E, Frugis S (1993) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti in Italia. Suppl. Ricerche Biologia Selvaggina, INFSGoogle Scholar
  64. Mezzavilla F, Bettiol K (2007) Nuovo Atlante degli Uccelli nidificanti in provincia di Treviso (2003–2006). Associazione Faunisti Veneti, TrevisoGoogle Scholar
  65. Mingozzi T, Boano G, Pulcher C (1988) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti in Piemonte e Val d’Aosta 1980–1984. Monografie VIII. Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino, TorinoGoogle Scholar
  66. Moreau R (1972) The Palaearctic-African bird migration system. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  67. Moreno-Rueda G, Pizarro M (2007) Snake species richness and shrubland correlate with the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) distribution in south-eastern Spain. Ann Zool Fennici 44:314–320Google Scholar
  68. Newton I (1998) Population limitation in birds. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  69. Panuccio M, Agostini N, Premuda G (2012) Ecological barriers promote risk minimization and social learning in migrating short-toed snake eagles. Ethol Ecol Evol 24:74–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Panuccio M, Agostini N, Baghino L, Bogliani G (2013) Visible migration of short-toed snake-eagles: interplay of weather and topographical features. J Raptor Res 47:60–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Pedrini P, Caldonazzi M, Zanghellini S (2005) Atlante degli Uccelli nidificanti e svernanti in provincia di Trento. Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, Trento. Studi Trentini di Scienze Naturali, Acta Biologica, vol 80, p 2Google Scholar
  72. Peltonen A, Hanski I (1991) Patterns of island occupancy explained by colonization and extinction rates in shrews. Ecology 72:1698–1708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rappole JH (1995) The ecology of migrant birds: a Neotropical perspective. Smithsonian Institution PressGoogle Scholar
  74. Rappole JH (2005) Evolution of old and new world migration systems: a response to Bell. Ardea 93:125–131Google Scholar
  75. Rappole JH, Jones P (2002) Evolution of old and new world migration systems. Ardea 90:525–537Google Scholar
  76. Ravasini M (1995) L’Avifauna nidificante nella provincia di Parma. Tipolitotecnica, ParmaGoogle Scholar
  77. Rempel EPR, Carr A (1999) Patch Analyst User’s Manual. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Northwest Science and Technologies, Thunder Bay TM-002, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  78. Safriel UN (1995) The evolution of Palaearctic migration—the case for southern ancestry. Isr J Zool 41:417–431Google Scholar
  79. Salewski V, Bruderer B (2007) The evolution of bird migration—a synthesis. Naturwissenschaften 94:268–279PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Salvadori T (1872) Fauna d’Italia. Uccelli. Vallardi editore, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  81. Sánchez-Zapata JA, Calvo JF (1999) Raptor distribution in relation to landscape composition in semiarid Mediterranean habitats. J Appl Ecol 36:254–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Schapire R (2003) The boosting approach to machine learning, an overview. In: Denison DD et al. (eds) MSRI Workshop on Nonlinear Estimation and Classification, SpringerGoogle Scholar
  83. Sindaco R, Doria G, Razzetti E, Bernini F (2006) Atlante degli Anfibi e dei Rettili d’Italia. Societas Herpetologica Italica. Edizioni Polistampa, FirenzeGoogle Scholar
  84. Smith AT, Gilpin ME (1997) Spatially correlated dynamics in a pika metapopulation. In: Hanski IA, Gilpin ME (eds) Metapopulation biology: ecology, genetics, and evolution. Academic Press, London, pp 401–428Google Scholar
  85. Tellería JL, Ramírez A, Galarza A, Carbonell R, Pérez-Tris J, Santos T (2009) Do migratory pathways affect the regional abundance of wintering birds? A test in northern Spain. J Biogeogr 36:220–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Tellini Florenzano G, Baccetti N, Arcamone E, Meschini E, Sposimo P (1997) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti e svernanti in Toscana (1982–1992). Quaderni Museo Provinciale di Storia Naturale, Monografie n.1, LivornoGoogle Scholar
  87. Thomas CD, Hanski I (1997) Butterfly populations. In: Hanski IA, Gilpin ME (eds) Metapopulation biology: ecology, genetics, and evolution. Academic Press, London, pp 359–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wahlberg N, Klemetti T, Hanski I (2002) Dynamic populations in a dynamic landscape: the metapopulation structure of the marsh fritillary butterfly. Ecography 25:224–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Whitcomb SD, Servello FA, O’Connell AF Jr (1996) Patch occupancy and dispersal of spruce grouse on the edge of its range in Maine. Can J Zool 74:1951–1955CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Panuccio
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Giuseppe Lucia
    • 2
  • Nicolantonio Agostini
    • 2
  • Dario Ottonello
    • 3
  • Giuseppe Bogliani
    • 1
  1. 1.DSTA-Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.MEDRAPTORS (Mediterranean Raptor Migration Network)RomeItaly
  3. 3.DAIS-Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and StatisticsCà Foscari University of VeniceVeniceItaly

Personalised recommendations