The Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos in Crete. Distribution, population status and conservation problems

Xirouchakis S.

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Abstract:

The post 1990 distribution and status of the Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos was investigated in a four-year study on the island of Crete. Total foraging and breeding range is about 5,200 km2 (63% of the island’s surface) although eagles are regularly sighted over an area of 3,200 km2. Population comprises of 16 breeding pairs or an estimated 60 birds. The mountains of Lefka Oroi, Idi (Psiloritis) and Dikti support the greatest eagle concentration with a mean population density of 0.63 breeding pairs per 100 km2. Mean annual productivity was estimated at 0.51 eaglets per territorial pair with a rate of one successful breeding attempt every 2.6 years. The average home range size was 79 km2 ranging from 45 km2 to 110 km2. Site occupancy is irregular in a number of territories due to human persecution which is also suspected to be the reason for territories occupied by single adult birds or mixed pairs of adult and pre-adult individuals (mean= 21%, range = 17-28%). Land use changes threaten the species’ long-term survival since the abandonment of terraced agriculture, overgrazing in combination with fire and road construction have caused the degradation of its habitat. Protection of mountain areas, control of poaching, decrease in stocking density and the implementation of hunting controls are the most desirable conservation actions.