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Population size and breeding performance of the Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus in Sicily: conservation implications

Authors:
  • Ecologia Applicata Italia srl
  • Cooperativa Silene - Palermo, Italy

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Capsule: We report a significant reduction in population size and breeding success for the Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus in Sicily, its biggest stronghold in Europe, since the latest coordinated survey. Aims: To provide updated information on current population size of Lanner Falcon in Sicily and to compare breeding parameters with those obtained in previous studies. Methods: We performed an intensive coordinated field survey and literature review of breeding success parameters across the species range. Results: Overall, we monitored 126 territories throughout Sicily where the species had been reported in the last 15 years. Lanner Falcons were present only in 60 of them. Mean nest productivity (± standard deviation) was 1.09 ± 1.18 fledged young/checked pairs, flight rate was 2.22 ± 0.52 fledged young/successful pairs and breeding success was 49.0%. Conclusions: Indirect measures aimed at preventing abandonment of occupied territories should be applied, for instance by developing a network of priority areas and slowing down degradation of the pseudo-steppe habitats by agri-environmental schemes. Additionally, direct measures aimed at preventing nest robbery, including the organization of nest guarding activities, and reduction of anthropogenic disturbance and illegal shooting, must be encouraged in order to avoid territory abandonment.
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Population size and breeding performance of the Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus in
Sicily: conservation implications
M. Di Vittorio
a,b
, E. Di Trapani
b
, S. Cacopardi
b
, G. Rannisi
b
, A. Falci
b
, A. Ciaccio
b
, A. Sarto
b
, S. Merlino
b
,
M. Zafarana
b
, S. Grenci
b
, G. Salvo
c
, M. Lo Valvo
d
, A. Scuderi
b
, L. Murabito
b
, G. La Grua
b
, G. Cortone
a
, N. Patti
b
,
L. Luiselli
e
and P. López-López
f
a
Ecologia Applicata Italia, Roma, Italy;
b
Gruppo Tutela Rapaci Pedara (CT), Italy;
c
Racalmuto (AG), Italy;
d
Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie
Biologiche, Chimiche e Farmaceutiche. Laboratorio di Zoologia applicata, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy;
e
IDECC Institute for
Development, Ecology, Conservation and Cooperation, Rome, Italy;
f
Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of
Valencia, Valencia, Spain
ABSTRACT
Capsule: We report a significant reduction in population size and breeding success for the Lanner
Falcon Falco biarmicus in Sicily, its biggest stronghold in Europe, since the latest coordinated survey.
Aims: To provide updated information on current population size of Lanner Falcon in Sicily and to
compare breeding parameters with those obtained in previous studies.
Methods: We performed an intensive coordinated field survey and literature review of breeding
success parameters across the species range.
Results: Overall, we monitored 126 territories throughout Sicily where the species had been
reported in the last 15 years. Lanner Falcons were present only in 60 of them. Mean nest
productivity standard deviation) was 1.09 ± 1.18 fledged young/checked pairs, flight rate was
2.22 ± 0.52 fledged young/successful pairs and breeding success was 49.0%.
Conclusions: Indirect measures aimed at preventing abandonment of occupied territories should
be applied, for instance by developing a network of priority areas and slowing down degradation of
the pseudo-steppe habitats by agri-environmental schemes. Additionally, direct measures aimed at
preventing nest robbery, including the organization of nest guarding activities, and reduction of
anthropogenic disturbance and illegal shooting, must be encouraged in order to avoid territory
abandonment.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 2 January 2017
Accepted 7 June 2017
Long-term studies focused on population size and
breeding parameters are essential to adequately
estimate population dynamics and demographic trends
of endangered species over long periods (Pandolfi et al.
2004, Thiollay 2006, Verdejo & López-López 2008,
Clutton-Brock & Sheldon 2010, López-López et al.
2012). The Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus feldeggii is a
medium-sized raptor, which inhabits Mediterranean
dry and warm environments, composed by patches of
natural habitats (grassland and sclerophylous
vegetation) and agricultural land (arable and
agricultural land) (Di Vittorio et al.2015). In the mid-
20th century, the species suffered severe declines in
Europe, mainly due to poisoning, shooting and
trapping for falconry (Kemp & Marks 2017, BirdLife
International 2016). Habitat loss due to urbanization,
changes of agricultural practices, agricultural
intensification and afforestation have also caused a
reduction in hunting areas and prey species in Europe
(BirdLife International 2016). As a consequence, the
species is included in Annex I of the 2009/147/EC Bird
Directive due to small population size and very limited
geographical range (Birdlife International 2004).
In Italy, the Lanner Falcon is still threatened by illegal
shooting (Snow & Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees & Christie
2001) and by nest robbery (Di Vittorio et al.2015). This
species also suffers from other human activities, such as
rock-climbing and pesticide use, as well as from
collisions with electrical power lines (Gustin et al.2000).
Sicily holds the largest European population of the
Lanner Falcon (AA.VV. 2008,Sarà2008, Di Vittorio
et al.2015). The species extends its range also into
continental Italy (Andreotti et al.2008) and is classified
as vulnerablein the Italian Red list of birds (Peronace
et al.2012). A wide range of prey species (Massa et al.
1991), particularly Rock Doves Columba livia and
Magpies Pica pica are available throughout most of the
Sicilian range (Grenci & Di Vittorio 2004).
Despite all these threats, the Lanner Falcon remains
one of the least known species of European falcons,
© 2017 British Trust for Ornithology
CONTACT P. López-López Pascual.Lopez@uv.es Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, C/ Catedrático José
Beltrán 2, Paterna, E-46980 Valencia, Spain
BIRD STUDY, 2017
VOL. 64, NO. 3, 339343
https://doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2017.1359234
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especially when it comes to population size and trends.
BirdLife International (2016) estimated that the
majority of the European population (430830
breeding pairs) lives in Italy and Turkey, where a
moderate decline (20% in 12.8 years, two generations)
was detected in the recent past (19902000). The latest
national survey in Italy estimated between 140 and 172
pairs (Amato et al.2014). However, population size in
Sicily, one of the main strongholds for the species in
Europe, still remains unknown; estimates range from
up to 93 breeding territories regularly occupied during
the 200009 period (Sarà 2014), to 7080 pairs
reported by Amato et al.(2014) and 65 pairs estimated
in 2014 by Di Vittorio et al.(2015).
The aim of this study is to report current population
size and breeding parameters of the Lanner Falcon in
Sicily, where the species has experienced a dramatic
decline in recent decades according to several studies
and confirmed as a result of our intensive field survey
(Di Vittorio 2007, AA.VV. 2008, Database Gruppo
Tutela Rapaci (GTR)). We also compare breeding
parameters with those obtained in previous studies in
the same island.
Methods
We created a starting database of Lanner Falcon
distribution obtained by compilation of three different
sources: (i) personal datasets of different Italian
ornithologists (Database of GTR); (ii) from the atlas of
terrestrial vertebrates of Sicily (AA.VV. 2008) and (iii)
from specific field surveys conducted in breeding
territories throughout the Sicilian range (Di Vittorio
2007, Di Vittorio et al.2015).
In 2016, a team of 20 experts was formed, thanks to
which a survey of all known territories of Lanner
Falcons occupied in the last 15 years was conducted. In
order to check site occupancy, to search for alternative
sites nearby and to compute breeding performance, all
territories were visited at least three times as follows:
(1) from late December to early March to check
occupation; (2) from mid-March to late April, during
the incubation stage to check egg laying and (3) from
early May to mid-June, during brooding and chick
fledging, to check pairs that raised young. Observations
were made using binoculars and terrestrial telescopes
at least 500 m from nesting cliffs to avoid disturbance
to the falcons. Given the habit of this bird to move
between nesting cliffs, in the cases of apparent absence
during the first visits, particular attention was taken to
secure the real absence of the territorial pairs or to find
the new nesting cliff by monitoring all cliffs in a radius
of 2 km of the known nest site. Nest productivity
(fledged young/checked pairs), flight rate (fledged
young/successful pairs) and breeding success
(successful pairs/checked pairs) were computed
following the standard methodology for raptors
monitoring (Steenhof & Newton 2007, López-López
et al.2007).
MannWhitney U tests and Monte Carlo
randomizations (9999 simulations) were used to
compare productivity recorded in this study with the
same parameters reported in a previous study carried
out in 2004 (Di Vittorio 2007 and unpubl. data) (N=
67 pairs). Analyses were computed in Past 3.0 software
(Hammer et al.2001). All tests were two-tailed and
statistical significance was set at P= 0.05.
Results and discussion
Overall, 126 territories were monitored, located
throughout Sicily (Di Vittorio 2007 and GTR
database). At least one individual Lanner Falcon was
present in 60 territories, whereas the remaining 66
were unoccupied. Most of the field surveyors
participating in this study did also survey the study
area for previous studies (AA.VV. 2008 and personal
databases of the authors), and therefore differences in
population size cannot be attributed to different
sampling effort. We were unable to estimate
reproductive performance in five territories and
another eight territories were occupied by only a single
individual throughout the breeding season. As a
consequence, these 13 territories were excluded from
the analyses.
In summary, we recorded 51 young fledged from 47
breeding attempts. Mean productivity (±standard
deviation) was 1.09 ± 1.18 fledged young/checked pairs,
flight rate was 2.22 ± 0.52 fledged young/successful
pairs and breeding success was 49.0%. We observed the
disappearance (probably due to mortality) of one of
the members of the breeding pair during the breeding
season in five nesting attempts.
Productivity was lower than compared with that
recorded in other studies in Sicily (Table 1), whereas
flight rate was similar to that reported by Salvo (1984),
Massa (1985), Iapichino & Massa (1989), Massa et al.
(1991) and Di Vittorio (2007). Our analyses showed a
significant reduction in breeding parameters between
2004 (Di Vittorio 2007 and unpubl. data) and 2016
(this study) (Figure 1): productivity (T= 738, z3.927;
Monte Carlo P= 0.0001), flight rate (T= 3.18, z=
2.680; Monte Carlo P= 0.0076) and breeding success
(T= 9.15, z=3.062; Monte Carlo P= 0.0031).
Importantly, the proportion of successful nests
reported here (0.49; N= 47) is much lower than that
340 M. DI VITTORIO ET AL.
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reported by Ciaccio et al.(1987) (years 198184, 0.96, N
= 24), Massa et al.(1991) (years 198188, 0.94, N= 178)
and Di Vittorio (2007 and unpubl. data) (year 2004, 0.79,
N= 55). Another warning signal that could account for a
negative demographic trend of the species in Sicily is the
high number of territories occupied by one individual for
the entire breeding season or at least during part of it
(N= 13). This might suggest high levels of adult
mortality and low turnover rate (i.e. low replacement
by young individuals) possibly due to a scarcity of
floaters in the population.
The current situation of the Lanner Falcon in Sicily, as
elsewhere in Italy, is very fragile, since the species is
declining dramatically and it is evident in a decline in
productivity and in breeding success. Management and
conservation of the Lanner Falcon in Italy is complex,
as a result of the occurrence of coincidental factors
such as habitat reduction, agricultural intensification,
disturbance in breeding areas and nest robbery
operated by traffickers and falconers. In fact, a network
of illegal trafficking of chicks from nests and egg
robbery was discovered in Sicily in 2010. Similar issues
have reduced the population size of the Saker Falcon
Falco cherrug in Central and Eastern Europe (Horák
2000, Levin 2000, Moseikin 2000, Bailey et al.2001,
Galushin et al.2001, Karyakin 2001,2005,2008, Fox
2002, ERWDA 2003, Levin et al.2010). The robbery of
Saker Falcon nests for falconry purposes is considered
to be amongst the main reasons for its population
decline, in addition to an array of other negative
factors, including habitat degradation, increase of
anthropogenic pressure on natural sites, a worsening
food supply, disturbance, poisoning, electrocution and
direct persecution (Iankov & Gradinarov 2012).
To prevent nest robbery, it would be necessary to
organize nest guarding activities, especially in the most
at-risk sites, which are characterized by easy accessibility
to cliffs, a history of past nest robbery and territories
with low productivity over long time periods. In fact,
nest guarding has been shown to be a potential solution
to avoid this problem, yielding positive results in other
countries and for other raptor species (Bagyura et al.
2004, GTR unpubl. data). In addition, disturbance at
nest sites during sensitive parts of the breeding period,
either intentional or accidental, due to agricultural or
forestry activities, hunting, uncontrolled tourism, cliff
climbing, road construction, bird watching and
photography (Bagyura et al.2004,Beranet al.2012)
could be causing breeding failure and can cause nest site
abandonment (Di Vittorio et al.2015,S
aràet al.2016).
Table 1. Breeding parameters of Lanner Falcon recorded in Sicily
according to a range of studies, including this one.
Productivity
Fledged
rate
Reproductive
success
Number of
breeding
attempts Source
2.33 6 Mebs (1959)
2.40 9 Salvo (1984)
2.3 2.4 0.96 24 Ciaccio et al.
(1987)
2.1 2.3 0.94 178 Massa et al.
(1991)
1.69 2.31 0.91 70 Salvo (2001)
2.05 2.63 0.79 55 Di Vittorio
(2007) and
unpubl. data
1.09 2.22 0.49 47 this study
Figure 1. Comparison of breeding parameters for Lanner Falcons on Sicily between 2004 (Di Vittorio 2007 and unpubl.) and 2016 (this
study).
BIRD STUDY 341
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Another important cause of the Lanner Falcon
population decrease is habitat change, which is caused
by the rapid decline in traditional husbandry and
agriculture in hilly and rugged areas. As a consequence,
it is causing extensive habitat degradation, especially of
the characteristic cereal-steppe habitat selected by this
falcon within its Mediterranean range (Bassi et al.1992,
Leonardi 1994, Morimando et al.1997,Sarà2014,Di
Vittorio et al.2015). Maintenance of cereal steppes
habitats, promoting conversion to grassland, rotation of
culture and other traditional practices, while reducing
anthropogenic disturbance and infrastructure building
(Sarà 2014), could be alternative management strategies
to halt habitat degradation for Lanner Falcons.
Translated into conservation actions, this would suggest
selecting management strategies that favour a decrease
in abandonment of occupied territories (Sarà et al.
2016), increasing breeding success and encouraging
colonization of empty sites.
In conclusion, measures aimed at preventing
abandonment of occupied territories should be applied,
for example by developing a network of priority areas
to slow down the degradation of the pseudo-steppe
habitats by agri-environmental schemes (Sarà 2014).
Furthermore, management strategies should be
adopted to encourage occupation and territory fidelity
so as to increase breeding success (Sergio & Newton
2003) and recruitment by means of specific actions
(Jiménez-Franco et al.2011), such as (i) preventing the
illegal nest robbery and human disturbance near
nesting sites in the breeding season; (ii) reducing
potential high mortality of adults and juveniles (mainly
by shooting); and eventually (iii) development of a
captive breeding programme for the release of young
to facilitate the recruitment and occupation of deserted
sites in suitable areas.
Acknowledgements
We thank Gruppo Tutela Rapaci and Falcone S., Diliberto
N. and Mannino V. for field support during monitoring.
Two anonymous reviewers made valuable suggestions that
helped to improve the original manuscript.
Funding
This project was supported by the LIFE Project ConRaSi
LIFE14 NAT/IT/001017 CUP H86J15000240006:
Conservation of Raptors in Sicily. P. López-López is
supported by a Juan de la Cierva-incorporación
postdoctoral grant of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and
Competitiveness (IJCI-2014-19190).
ORCID
P. López-López http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5269-652X
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BIRD STUDY 343
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... Massa et al. 1991, Andreotti et al. 2008, Brunelli & Sarrocco 2012, Amato et al. 2014, Sarà 2014, Leonardi 2015, Sarà et al. 2016, reproductive biology and population trends (e.g. Allavena et al. 2015, Pezzo et al. 2016, Di Vittorio et al. 2017, Mascara & Nardo 2018 of this endangered species, focusing on conservation implications. Nonetheless, one basic information still lacking is those regarding the genetic variability and structuring of the Italian, Balkan and Greek populations. ...
... The detrimental factors hitting the European Lanner Falcons (e.g. Sarà 2014, Di Vittorio et al. 2017 would have been acting on few generations of breeders in the last 20-30 years (Andreotti & Leonardi 2007) and without still evident consequences on population genetic diversity. They would become of much higher concern in next years, persisting the numerical and breeding performances decline (e.g. ...
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We analysed variation in 10 polymorphic microsatellites and a variable portion of control region of mtDNA in 24 specimens from 3 populations of European Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus feldeggii living in Sicily, continental Italy and the Balkan area to assess species’ genetic diversity and population structure in the poorly investigated range of this threatened subspecies. We considered also a dataset of previously published mtDNA sequences of the other Lanner Falcon subspecies and of Hierofalco subgenus members (F. cherrug, F. rusticolus and F. jugger) to outline the genetic variation in the region on a wide-ranging basis. Regard with mtDNA we identified 6 haplotypes from our 24 European Lanner Falcon specimens, 3 of which were new and unique (1 Sicilian, 2 Balkans) and the 3 others already known and shared with other Hierofalcons. The 62.5% of our sample, including 14 of Sicilians and one Apulia specimen, belonged to haplotype H_24 shared with F. c. cherrug, F. rusticolus and F. jugger. MtDNA analyses of European Lanner Falcons showed a dispersed pattern of our specimens inside the main Hierofalco clades and haplo-groups in a way congruent to what found in recent literature. These analyses confirmed that none of the Hierofalcons form a monophyletic group, nonetheless the Lanner Falcons can be subdivided in two major Palaearctic (F. b. feldeggii, F. b. erlangeri and F. b. tanypterus) and sub-Sahara African (F. b. biarmicus and F. b. abyssinicus) clades. Microsatellites analysis yielded a first outline of population genetic structure, with genetic identity between continental Italy and Sicily and a moderate degree of differentiation of the Balkan area with Sicily and continental Italy. The 3 populations did not show significant departure from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, with low values of the inbreeding coefficients and had allele richness and haplotype diversity consistent with literature. Microsatellites analysis (Nm, frequency of private alleles) suggests a gene flow among the three examined populations and the connection of Sicilian population to those of mainland.
... The latest national census (Sigismondi, 2016) estimated no more than 123-147 pairs in Italy, highlighting a particularly severe decline in the regions along Italy's Tyrrhenian coast. More recently, a major reduction in size and breeding success was also reported for lanner populations in Sicily, the biggest stronghold of this species in Europe (Di Vittorio et al., 2017). European peregrine falcon populations showed a sizeable decrease in the 1980s, being highly vulnerable to polychlorinated biphenyl pesticides frequently used in agriculture (Cade, 1990;Park et al., 2009;Ratcliffe, 2010). ...
... We located 116 breeding sites by systematically surveying all the cliff faces in the study area. Telescopes were used to survey the sites yearly from February to June twice a month (Pellegrini et al., 1993;Di Vittorio et al., 2017), from 2003 to 2014. We filtered the data by removing duplicate records falling in the same cell of the environmental grid used for the model calibration (see below), obtaining a final dataset of 21 occurrence points for FB, 83 for FP and 12 for CO ( Fig. 1). ...
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The peregrine falcon has shown an increasing tendency to replace the lanner falcon at its breeding sites in the Mediterranean area. This has been suggested as the main cause of the reduction in the distribution of the lanner observed in central Italy. We focused on these two falcon species to disentangle the relative contribution of habitat filtering and biotic interactions on the co-occurrence of their breeding sites. We hypothesized that the replacement of lanner breeding sites with peregrine falcon breeding sites is due to competitive exclusion rather than to environmental factors, and predicted how land-use change might affect falcon species distributions and biotic interactions. To test our hypothesis, we proposed a modelling framework including niche overlap tests, Bayesian co-occurrence analysis and species distribution models (SDMs). A significant niche similarity emerged between the breeding sites used exclusively by peregrine or lanner falcons, and those used by both species. Bayesian co-occurrence analysis showed that biotic interactions significantly explained the negative co-occurrence between the two falcon species. SDMs predicted that land-use change would reduce suitable breeding habitats exclusive of each species as well as those suitable for both falcons. Results of niche overlap and co-occurrence analysis provided strong support for the hypothesis of competitive interaction for breeding sites between peregrine and lanner falcons in central Italy. The out-competed lanner falcon would be displaced from optimal habitats by the peregrine and forced to exploit suboptimal habitats to minimize competition. While competition with the peregrine may represent a threat for the lanner in the short term, habitat loss due to land-use change will pose a more severe threat for the long-term persistence of lanner falcon in central Italy.
... All its subspecies have good population sizes, while the unique and very distinctive subsp. feldeggii (Schlegel, 1843) is rather localized (Cramp & Simmons, 1980;Massa et al., 1991;Krueger et al., 1996;Corso 2000Corso , 2001Gustin et al., 2002;Andreotti & Leonardi, 2007;Allavena et al., 2015;Leonardi, 2015;Di Vittorio et al., 2017). In the 1800s and early 1900s, F. biarmicus feldeggii was still common, chiefly in Italy (Arrigoni degli Oddi, 1929;Martorelli, 1911;Mebs, 1959;Toschi, 1969). ...
... obs.). On the other hand, Di Vittorio et al. (2017) clearly demonstrate a negative trend in both the number of breeding pairs in Sicily, from 70-90 in the 1980s and 1990s to no more than 55-60 by 2016, and the productivity which has also diminished in the last 20 years. A further decline was recorded in Sicily in 2017 with an estimate of 56 nesting territories (but only 30 breeding pairs) and a very low rate of substitution of adults at the nest, showing a demography-related problem and high mortality (Di Vittorio, Ciaccio, Scuderi, Merlino pers. ...
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Information on the breeding population size of European Lanner Falcon, Falco biarmicus feldeggii Schlegel, 1843 (Aves Falconiformes), up to the breeding season 2017 are here given, showing how this peculiar and distinctive taxon is now threatened. A brief overview of the most relevant past and recent information available for the main breeding strongholds is reported, with a more circumstanced status for Turkey and other countries for which the data so far published were either out of date or misleading. The general figure is at no more than ca. 200 breeding pairs worldwide, with slightly more known nesting territories so far remaining. Some comments for the North African subspecies F. biarmicus erlangeri (Schlegel, 1843) are also concisely reported, showing how also this taxon is steadily declining.
... The Italian population has more than halved in the last 20 years and today is estimated at around 60-80 pairs (Andreotti & Leonardi 2007, Brichetti & Fracasso 2020. Degradation and fragmentation of Mediterranean steppe-like habitats (Sarà 2014) and the large unnatural mortality of adults and young due to illegal shooting, poisoning, electrocution and collision with wind turbines and electricity wires, plus the illegal trading of eggs and chicks, are the main causes of population decline (Di Vittorio et al. 2017). and their occupants with 10×42 binoculars and 20-60× telescopes and from vantage points located far enough to minimize disturbance to the nesting birds. ...
... 450 specimens are reported by Arrigoni degli Oddi (1929), probably coming from Balkans following lark flocks migrating towards Italy. Sicilian census of this species gave data very fluctuating: 60 pairs by Iapichino & Massa (1989), but 90 by Massa et al. (1991), 100-120 by Corso (2005 and again 60 by Di Vittorio et al. (2017). It seems that the Lanner Falcon has been a regularly fluctuating species and the recent diminution may lie within its high and low peaks of abundance. ...
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The use of environmental cues such as temperature and rainfall for the timing of breeding and as an indicator of plentiful food much later in the season is thought to have a great influence on breeding success and productivity rates. We tried to assess effects of such cues on timing and performance of the lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus feldeggii), a threatened large falcon in Italy. We ascertained success and productivity of 178 breeding attempts in 38 breeding sites distributed in central Eastern Sicily and along the Apennine peninsula. In Sicily alone, we checked each nest annually to ascertain the number and age of chicks and also post-hatching mortality. We overlaid nest locations in order to add attributes of temperature and rainfall for each month and year. Breeding populations from Sicily to the Apennine peninsula showed no significant difference in all breeding parameters except distribution of brood size. Annually, breeding pairs tried to synchronize the hatching in a precise favourable period that increased nestling survival. February rainfall was the main abiotic factor that greatly influenced all lanner falcon reproductive parameters with a positive effect as cues for breeding decisions by parents. Conversely, intense rainfall caused nesting failure through a delay in laying dates. Our study confirmed the importance of environmental cues such as temperature and rainfall on breeding decisions by lanner falcon pairs inhabiting the whole Italian territory. We discuss our results and compare them with prior studies in terms of their potential conservation implications for this threatened subspecies.
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Understanding ecological interactions among protected species is crucial for correct management to avoid conflicting outcomes of conservation planning. The occurrence of a superior competitor may drive the exclusion of a subordinate contestant, as in Sicily where the largest European population of the lanner falcon is declining because of potentially competing with the peregrine falcon. We measured the coexistence of these two ecologically equivalent species through null models and randomization algorithms on body sizes and ecological niche traits. Lanners and peregrines are morphologically very similar (Hutchinson ratios <1.3) and show 99% diet overlap, and both of these results predict competitive exclusion. In contrast, their use of diverse cliff substrates for breeding in different times of the season would predict coexistence. To compare these two mutually excluding hypotheses, we examined the pattern of inter-specific transitions in 88 sites that were studied for 14years (2000-2013) using a Markov chain (MC) occupancy state model, and checked the sensitivity and elasticity of the community structure to changes in transition probabilities. During the study period, 1144 territorial transitions occurred in peregrine and lanner territories, and the MCs were predicted to converge to a stable equilibrium in 2065. Markovian analysis suggested that temporal and spatial segregation of habitat during reproduction might prevail over anatomical specialization for hunting and diet, allowing species coexistence, despite the prediction that peregrines will outnumber the lanners in future projections. Our approach combining niche-overlap analysis and species occupancy modelling led to practical information about conservation options available for the threatened lanner. Lanners are very sensitive to site abandonment, and measures increasing adult persistence in occupied territories could be more rewarding than those encouraging juvenile dispersal and colonization of new sites.
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The purpose of Red Lists is to assess the short-term risk of extinction in a given taxon, and they are drafted according to guidelines produced by the IUCN. The guidelines make it possible to draft both global and regional or sub-global lists, keeping in mind the relationship between the populations being assessed and neighbouring populations. The present work results from the application of this methodology. It aims to update the previous Red List of breeding birds in Italy and to bridge the methodological and temporal gap that for many years has prevented Italy from availing itself of an important tool for bird conservation and planning. We considered a totol of 270 specie: 51.1% were classified as Least Concern (LC),9.6% as Near-Threatened (NT), while 27.3% are in one of the three threatened categories: 2.2% Critically Endangered (CR), 8.1% Endangered (EN) and 17% Vulnerable (VU). The data for 3.3% of the species assessed was not sufficient to assign them to a threat category, and they were thus classified as Data Deficient (DD). Finally, three species that were classified as Regionally Extinct (RE) in the previous Red List of Breeding Birds in Italy were confirmed as such. A total of six species were classified as Critically Endangered (CR), of which four are raptors (Lammergeier, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle) and two are passerines (Sedge Warbler, Barred Warbler). At the level of orders, Anseriformes is the taxon with the highest percentage of threatened or near-threatened species (55.6%), followed by Gruiformes (54.6%) and Accipitriformes (53.8%). Unfortunately it was not possible to effectively compare the current Red List with the previous one, as there are significant methodological differences between them. The current work follows IUCN guidelines for regional red lists, which had not yet been drafted when the previous Red List of Breeding Birds in Italy was prepared. Nevertheless, it clearly emerges that the number of threatened passerines increased from 21.7% to 31%. This finding may in part depend on improved knowledge about population trends iwidespread species, or it may truly reflect the worsening of the conservation status of many passerine species over the last decade. Current knowledge on breeding birds in Italy has made it possible to classify the vast majority of the species that were assessed, in spite that information is still limited for many species. In the immediate future, research efforts should target priority species for conservation and species for which information is limited.
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The presence of the lanner falcon Falco biarmicus feldeggi in Sicily was modelled by generalized linear models using climatic, topographic, ecological and land-use variables at both the landscape (UTM cells of 10 × 10 km) and the home range (12.56 km 2) spatial scales. At the landscape scale, a significant spatial autocorrelation of the lanner population, corresponding to the longitudinal distribution of sites, was found, with the species occurring within the most xeric UTM cells. There was also a negative relationship between falcon presence and potential evapo-transpiration values, either in the coldest months or throughout the year. The same negative relationship was also seen with the surfaces of CORINE artificial areas, thus showing that the species has a low tolerance to any anthropogenic landscape. At home range scale, our predictive models revealed a preference for territories with steep slopes surrounded by natural grassland, sclerophyll vegetation, arable land and agricultural land. The lack of spatial correlation and the identification of specific preferred land use classes, suggests that the home range scale is more appropriate than the landscape scale for predicting the occurrence of lanner falcons. The maintenance of a stable lanner falcon population in Sicily should be addressed at both small and large scales.
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Saker Falcon is currently threatened with extinction in Bulgaria. Nest robbing is considered to be amongst the main reasons for this, although a complex of other negative factors, affecting its habitats and sites have possibly additional causes. Different visions exist about how to reverse this negative trend. The conservation strategy on Saker of Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) is presented. The concept is based on: (1) current status of the species in the country (2006–2010); (2) the situation and trends of Central and Eastern European Saker populations; (3) the natural and socio-economic conditions in Bulgaria and (4) the results of previous conservation actions in Bulgaria. Out of the possible strategies the support of natural recolonization of Sakers in Bulgaria was considered as the most feasible. It lacks any risk of genetic interference to the wild Saker population (including those of the rest of Central and Eastern Europe) inevitable during a restocking programme. During the period 2006–2010, the presence of 2–9 pairs were assumed in Bulgaria, although no breeding was confirmed. The number of Sakers in Bulgaria during the study period was relatively stable, however lower values were observed in 2010. The conservation strategy was based on the following facts: (1) Saker populations in Hungary and Serbia are increasing; (2) juvenile Sakers as stragglers appear regularly in South-Eastern Europe; (3) Sakers are currently changing their traditional nest sites (cliffs and trees) to electricity pylons in the neighbouring countries. BSPB accepted to support the natural recolonization of the species through a variety of measures on habitat, site and species, especially by providing opportunities for the species to nest on high voltage pylons by installing artificial nest boxes.
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Diet of the lanner Falco biarmicus feldeggii in Sicily. We studied the diet of four lanner pairs in mid–southern Sicily between 1996 and 2000. 419 prey remains were collected, among which 98.8% of were birds (96.4% of the total biomass). The average weight of prey items was 190.24 g, and the most common prey items were Columba livia (27.7%), Pica pica (19.1%) and Passer hispaniolensis (11.2%). Our findings confirm pre- vious knowledge on lanner diet in Sicily.
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The presence of the lanner falcon Falco biarmicus feldeggi in Sicily was modelled by generalized linear models using climatic, topographic, ecological and land-use variables at both the landscape (UTM cells of 10 × 10 km) and the home range (12.56 km 2) spatial scales. At the landscape scale, a significant spatial autocorrelation of the lanner population, corresponding to the longitudinal distribution of sites, was found, with the species occurring within the most xeric UTM cells. There was also a negative relationship between falcon presence and potential evapo-transpiration values, either in the coldest months or throughout the year. The same negative relationship was also seen with the surfaces of CORINE artificial areas, thus showing that the species has a low tolerance to any anthropogenic landscape. At home range scale, our predictive models revealed a preference for territories with steep slopes surrounded by natural grassland, sclerophyll vegetation, arable land and agricultural land. The lack of spatial correlation and the identification of specific preferred land use classes, suggests that the home range scale is more appropriate than the landscape scale for predicting the occurrence of lanner falcons. The maintenance of a stable lanner falcon population in Sicily should be addressed at both small and large scales. Key words: habitat preference, lanner falcon, Sicily, spatial scales. RESUMEN.—Se estimó la presencia del halcón borní Falco biarmicus feldeggi en Sicilia mediante mo-delos lineales generalizados utilizando variables climáticas, topográficas, ecológicas y de uso del suelo a escalas tanto del paisaje (cuadrículas UTM de 10 × 10 km) como de áreas de campeo (12,56 km 2).