Volume 43 - N. 1
June 2019

Avocetta
Volume 43 - N. 1
Special Issue - Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation of Raptors



  1. Editorial - Support your local “raptor” team, but looking at a wider perspective to improve raptor research, monitoring and conservation at a continental scale

    Panuccio M.

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  2. Activity patterns of Eleonora’s Falcons during the pre-breeding period: the role of habitat composition on the island of Antikythira

    Kassara C., Bairakataridou K., Kakalis E., Tsiopelas N., Giokas S. and Barboutis C.

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    Eleonora’s Falcon is well known for its delayed breeding season among European breeding raptors, however, its relatively prolonged pre-breeding period remains to date largely understudied. In this study, we compiled information on the species’ behaviour based on data from systematic field surveys to investigate activity patterns of Eleonora’s falcons during the pre-breeding period in an area that holds one of the largest colonies across its breeding range, namely the island of Antikythira in the southern edge of the Aegean Sea. According to our findings, large islands hosting Eleonora’s falcons breeding colonies may also constitute important foraging areas during the pre-breeding period as foraging was the main activity undertaken by the falcons. Foraging was mostly performed in areas where food availability, either staging birds or insects, is expected to be highest, namely in cultivated areas. Considering the habitat composition in the study area, previous findings on the spatiotemporal activity patterns of staging migrants and our opportunistic observations of foraging falcons, our findings suggest that birds could constitute an alternative food of source during this period of the year within our study area. Therefore, the revival of agricultural practices is expected to enhance local biodiversity and constitute a conservation priority for Eleonora’s falcons in the study area. Still, further studies are required to decipher the distribution pattern and habitat associations during the pre-breeding period of Eleonora’s falcons and ultimately guide conservation schemes at a larger spatial scale.

  3. Repeated large scale loop migrations of an adult European Honey Buzzard

    Agostini N., Prommer M, Vàczi M. and Panuccio M.

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    During migration, birds adopt flight strategies that often differ between spring and autumn. This behaviour can lead to differences in migratory paths as well as in-flight performances between seasons and may help to explain seasonal differences in the numbers of birds passing through migratory bottlenecks. Visual observations have revealed that larger numbers of adult European Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus pass through the Central Mediterranean region during spring rather than during autumn migration, while the opposite occurs at the Strait of Gibraltar. It suggested that substantial numbers of birds, probably belonging to the population breeding in eastern Europe, use an anticlockwise loop migration performing a risk-minimization strategy during autumn and a time minimization strategy during spring migration to maximize their fitness. In this study, we analyze for the first time three autumn and three spring migrations of an adult
    bird belonging to this population tracked by satellite telemetry, also in relation to wind conditions. Each year the bird used the large-scale loop migration between the breeding site located in northern Hungary and the wintering ground in northern Cameroon, showing a higher overall migration speed, shorter paths and longer water crossings during spring movements. The bird benefited from a more efficient tailwind support during spring, while compensated the effect of lateral winds mostly at the onset of both autumn and spring migration. Finally, the bird initiated the spring sea-crossing at the same location each year but showed remarkable flexibility in route choice across the sea in response to annual differences in different wind conditions. These results support the idea that the stronger aggregation of adult European Honey Buzzards in Central Mediterranean bottlenecks in spring vs autumn largely consists of adults breeding in central-eastern Europe that return to their nesting sites along a relatively direct route.

  4. Quantifying the global legal trade in live CITES-listed raptors and owls for commercial purposes over a 40-year period

    Panter C., Atkinson E.D. and White R.L.

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    The global wildlife trade poses an increasing threat to the world’s biota. One-fifth of the global wildlife trade is fuelled by the demand for animals used as pets and entertainment purposes. The CITES Trade Database contains data on the declared trade of CITES listed species from 1975 onwards. Previous research has focussed on the commercial trade of heavily persecuted species such as the Saker Falcon Falco cherrug. However there has yet to be an extensive review quantifying CITES trade data for live raptors and owls destined for global commercial markets. This study analyses trends in CITES trade data between 1975 and 2015 for live raptors and owls, highlighting key importer and exporter countries and discusses implications for raptor and owl conservation. Our results showed that the number of traded raptor and owl species has increased since 1975. We found that the most traded raptor species included hybrids in the genus Falco, the Gyrfalcon F. rusticolus and the Saker Falcon. In addition, our analyses revealed that the Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops, Northern White-Faced Owl Ptilopsis leucotis and the Little Owl Athene noctua were the most commonly traded owl species. Our results suggested that Japan was the largest global importer of raptors and owls contributing to 94% of wild-caught owl imports since 1975, followed by the United Arab Emirates who imported the largest number of captive-bred raptors. Key exporter and re-exporter countries were the United Kingdom, Guinea and Germany. We conclude that the declared, legal commercial trade in live raptors and owls does not currently pose a large conservation concern to many such species. However, at present, there is a lack of quantified evidence highlighting the global extent and impact of the unregulated illegal raptor and owl trade, which is of conservation concern and is a current research gap that must be addressed.

  5. Electronic Supplementary Material for Panter et al. 2019

    Panter C., Atkinson E.D. and White R.L.

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  6. Little Owl Athene noctua survey in Milan, northern Italy: distribution, habitat preferences and considerations about sampling protocol

    Calvi G and Muzio M

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    We studied the Little Owl Athene noctua distribution in the city of Milan with a single-visit survey carried out during the 2013 breeding season. We searched for Little Owls in 82 sampling stations spread out all over the city using play-back technique. We detected 52 Little Owls in 33 sampling stations. The species appeared to be quite common in the municipality of Milan but with a greater abundance in the southern outskirts (Parco Agricolo Sud Milano). We modelled species occurrence by means of Generalized Additive Models selecting our best models with an information-theoretic approach. Little Owls’ presence resulted more likely in presence of permanent crops and farmsteads. The latter represent one of the main sources of nesting sites for the species. Little Owl’s detection is also more likely in relation with buildings’ mean height, of about 10 meters while it appears to avoid completely the more dense urban areas present in the central and in the north-eastern side of Milan. The Little owl is finally more likely to be found in the larger urban parks. The species’ distribution in the study area showed a significant spatial autocorrelation. Our best model accurately predicts 80.2% of observed data. According to model predictions 29.5% of the municipal territory has a medium or medium-high habitat suitability for the Little Owl. Field methods used in this work seemed to be easily carried out even by non-professionals. We discussed the global survey protocol for the species in light of our experience and with the desirable outlook of a large scale monitoring programme in our country: this is urgently needed to fill in the gap of knowledge on large scale distribution and population trends of the Little owl.

  7. Premigratory moult in the Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni

    Bounas A.

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    Moult is one of three major energy-demanding life-history events in the annual cycle of birds but unlike breeding and migration it is poorly studied. Most of the long-distance migratory raptors suspend moult during migration and then finish it in their wintering quarters. However, detailed information on moult at staging or premigratory sites is rather scarce. In this study, 280 shed feathers collected from communal roosts were used to investigate the moult of a migratory falcon, the Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni during the premigratory period. The results suggest that there are several differences regarding the pattern and timing of moult between sex classes during the premigratory period, with females showing a more advanced moult stage than males. In addition, Lesser Kestrels and especially females seem to perform a complete moult of wing and tail feathers prior to migration. Birds engage in an intense moult as soon as they arrive in the premigration areas whereas such moult strategy could be considered as an adaptation for exploiting superabundant food resources available in the area during late August.

  8. Genetic variability and population structuring in the European Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus feldeggii

    Sarà M., Mengoni C., Mucci N., Guzzo E., Ruzic M., Amato M., Antioco N., Boano G., Bondì S., Leonardi G., Nardo A., Mascara R., Ossino A., Vitale E. and Zanca L.

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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- roups 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.

  9. Better to stay downtown or in the countryside? Raptors wintering in urban and rural Protected Areas of Rome (Central Italy)

    Panuccio M., Foschi F., Todini A., Baldi A., Dominicis N., De Filippis P., Casini S., De Pisa G. and Palmeri A.

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    Urbanization is one of the main permanent landscape changes we are witnessing. Some raptor species are increasing their urban population sizes but others are facing local extinctions due to new settlements. To investigate the composition of raptor community and abundance, we counted wintering raptors in five Protected Areas, three located inside an urban environment and two situated in a large part of the countryside around the city. The most abundant species were the Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus and the Common Buzzard Buteo buteo. The first species was distributed across both landscape types whereas the second required woodland to overwinter. Both species actively selected undisturbed open areas with natural vegetation and tended to avoid artificial surfaces. The results suggest that larger rural areas better support wintering raptor communities than urban contexts, in particular when rural areas are located along the coastline.

  10. SHORT NOTE - First evidence by satellite telemetry of Lanner Falcon’s (Falco biarmicus feldeggii) natal dispersal outside Sicily, and a review of existing data.

    Sarà M., Bondì S., Guzzo E., Amato M., Antioco N., Leonardi G., Mascara R., Nardo A., Ossino A., Vitale E. and Zanca L.

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  11. SHORT NOTE - From a regional reintroduction project to a country-wide conservation approach: scaling up results to promote osprey conservation in Italy.

    Sforzi A., Monti F. and Sammuri G.

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  12. SHORT NOTE - Preliminary data on Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos diet in southern Sardinia

    Sirigu G., Serra L. and Di Vittorio M.

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  13. SHORT NOTE - Further evidence of cross migration behaviour of Western Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus at the Apuane Alps (Tuscany, Italy) bottleneck

    Premuda G.

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  14. Obituary - Michele Panuccio, 1976-2019

    Agostini N. and Mellone U.

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    Our Associate Editor, dr. Michele Panuccio, who has conceived and directed this special issue,
    did not have time to see it published, passing away the 18th June of 2019. His death leaves an
    overwhelming emptiness, but also an immense heredity, which we hope new generations
    of ornithologists will be able to pick up.
    His close friends and colleagues Nicolantonio Agostini and Ugo Mellone remember him in our Journal with this contribution.