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Behavioral evidence of hunting and foraging techniques by a top predator suggests the importance of scavenging for preadults

AuthorsMargalida, Antoni ; Colomer, Mª Àngels; Sánchez, Roberto; Sánchez, Francisco Javier; Oria, Javier; González, Luis Mariano
KeywordsAttack techniques
Carrion consumption
Habitat quality
Spanish imperial eagle
Issue Date2017
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
CitationEcology and Evolution 7(12): 4192-4199 (2017)
AbstractScavenging may be a regular feeding behavior for some facultative raptor species occupying low quality habitats and/or with little experience in hunting techniques. However, its importance has been largely underestimated due to methodological limitations in identifying the real proportion in the diet. Here, through direct observations, we assessed the hunting and foraging success of the threatened Spanish imperial eagle Aquila adalberti determining the influence of age, sex, breeding status, habitat quality, prey type, and landscape characteristics. From 465 observations, Spanish imperial eagles used hunting in flight (42%), scavenging (30%), hunting from a perch (16%) and kleptoparasitism (12%). Our model suggests that Prey size and Prey type best explain hunting success, followed by Landscape and Sex. Our findings suggest that Spanish imperial eagles increase hunting success with age, with scavenging and kleptoparasitism regularly used as juveniles. The absence of relationships with any of the variables considered suggests that kleptoparasitism is an opportunistic behavior used sporadically. Scavenging is also independent of habitat quality and landscape characteristics. Accordingly, low prey density is not a driver of carrion use for preadult individuals, suggesting that a lack of hunting ability obliges this age‐class to use this alternative feeding technique regularly. As a result, the threatened Spanish imperial eagle population is also prone to mortality related to the illegal use of poison baits and, potentially, veterinary drugs (i.e., diclofenac).
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2944
Appears in Collections:(IREC) Artículos
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