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Hunting behaviour and breeding performance of northern goshawks Accipiter gentilis, in relation to resource availability, sex, age and morphology

AuthorsPenteriani, Vincenzo ; Rutz, Christian; Kenward, Robert
KeywordsAccipiter gentilis
Breeding performance
Foraging movements
Habitat heterogeneity
Phenotypic traits
Issue Date2013
CitationNaturwissenschaften, 100(10): 935-942 (2013)
AbstractAnimal territories that differ in the availability of food resources will require (all other things being equal) different levels of effort for successful reproduction. As a consequence, breeding performance may become most strongly dependent on factors that affect individual foraging where resources are poor. We investigated potential links between foraging behaviour, reproductive performance and morphology in a goshawk Accipiter gentilis population, which experienced markedly different resource levels in two different parts of the study area (rabbit-rich vs. rabbit-poor areas). Our analyses revealed (1) that rabbit abundance positively affected male reproductive output; (2) that age, size and rabbit abundance (during winter) positively affected different components of female reproductive output; (3) that foraging movements were inversely affected by rabbit abundance for both sexes (for females, this may mainly have reflected poor provisioning by males in the rabbit-poor area); (4) that younger breeders (both in males and females) tended to move over larger distances than older individuals (which may have reflected both a lack of hunting experience and mate searching); and (5) that male body size (wing length) showed some covariation with resource conditions (suggesting possible adaptations to hunting agile avian prey in the rabbit-poor area). Although we are unable to establish firm causal relationships with our observational data set, our results provide an example of how territory quality (here, food abundance) and individual features (here, age and morphology) may combine to shape a predator's foraging behaviour and, ultimately, its breeding performance
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-013-1093-7
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