Factors shaping distribution and abundance of raptors wintering in two large Mediterranean islands

Abstract

A growing number of ecological studies suggest that animal distributions are not only influenced by classical ecological features such as habitat availability, but also by the motion capacity of the studied animal. Here we analyse the diversity and density of two wintering raptor communities from Crete and Sicily, two large Mediterranean islands located along migratory flyways. We performed 611 and 1030 km of transects in Crete and Sicily respectively, examining the spatial distribution of raptors in relation to land use, topography, raptor species diversity and abundance. Our results show that community diversity and specific abundance are strictly related in accordance with the ‘More Individuals Hypothesis’. Comparing the two most common raptors, the density of the Eurasian kestrel was the highest in Sicily and that of the common buzzard in Crete. An overall positive effect of Eurasian kestrel density on that of the common buzzard was found in both islands, but higher in Crete. Our findings suggest that the distribution and density of the Eurasian kestrel, because of its higher movement ability, are less influenced by the presence of ecological barriers along potentially migratory flyways. We cannot exclude that higher inter specific competition with common buzzards in Crete might have pushed the smaller species to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to overwinter in Africa.

Abbreviations

KIA:

Kilometric Index of Abundance

KmH:

Kilometric raptor diversity index

VIF:

Variance Inflation Factor

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to all the people who helped us during the fieldwork: A. Provenza, P. Amato, E. Giudice, P. Campo, A. Duchi and R. Ientile. We wish to thank MEDRAPTORS (www.raptormigration.org), a network of ornithologists involved in research and conservation of migrating birds of prey. A sincere thanks goes to J. Miller and F. Chadwick for their careful proofreading and English revision.

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Correspondence to L. Nelli.

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Panuccio, M., Agostini, N., Nelli, L. et al. Factors shaping distribution and abundance of raptors wintering in two large Mediterranean islands. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 20, 93–103 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1556/168.2019.20.1.10

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Keywords

  • Ecological barriers
  • Inter-specific competition
  • More Individuals Hypothesis
  • Movement ability