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The importance of natural habitats as Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) breeding sites

Posted on 19. October, 2015.

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The biodiversity of native species is diminishing in many regions as natural habitats are being replaced by human settlements and agriculture. 

Top predators, such as large raptors, are especially sensitive to habitat change, and they present flagship species due to the interest in them by the public. By protecting the raptors' habitats we also protect other species that reside within these habitats. A large population of Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus, hereafter StE) were studied in the Judea region of Israel across a 1,175 km2 study site during the 2006–2008 breeding seasons, in order to determine whether the different types of habitat affect the number of successful breeding pairs. During the three-year study, we recorded 288 breeding attempts by StE pairs in 156 different nests located mainly on trees. Of the successful StE pairs, 76.9% bred in natural habitats while fewer pairs than expected bred in agricultural areas and human settlements. The mean number of successful StE pairs was positively related to the proportion of natural habitat types and negatively related to the proportion of human settlements and agriculture. Compared to successful pairs breeding in grids with a low density of StE, grids with higher breeding densities of successful pairs comprised more natural habitat types and less agricultural land and human settlement. Even though the population of StE in Israel is large, its future may be at risk as natural habitats are increasingly being destroyed and replaced by human settlements and agriculture. Conservation programs are therefore needed in order to protect as much natural habitat types as possible prior to urban planning and realisation.

Read the full article in Avian Biology Research, Volume 8, Number 3, September 2015, pp. 160-166

Keywords: Agriculture; Conservation; Habitat Loss; Human Settlements; Nest Sites; Short-toed Eagle; Top Predator
Authors: Ezra Hadada, Gilad Weila and Motti Charterb*

aIsrael Nature and Parks Authority, 3 Am Ve’Olamo St, Jerusalem, 95463, Israel
bDepartment of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel


Image: Short toed eagle ( circaetus gallicus ) Copyright: Igor Shootov