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Oecologia. 2004 Nov;141(3):420-4. Epub 2004 Jul 28.

Competitive interactions among raptors in boreal forests.

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  • 1Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland. harhak@utu.fi


We examined inter-specific interactions among goshawks ( Accipiter gentilis), common buzzards (Buteo buteo) and honey buzzards (Pernis apivorus) in western Finland in 1983-1996. Because goshawks are among the largest birds of prey species in boreal forests they may take over the nest of smaller and less-competitive forest-dwelling raptors when searching for suitable places for breeding. Accordingly, more than half of newly established goshawk territories were found on the territories previously occupied by the common buzzard and the honey buzzard. Otherwise, territory sharing between these species was rare. Fledgling production of honey buzzards was not associated with the presence of goshawks, probably owing to the almost 2 months later onset of breeding. This probably decreases competitive interactions between these two species. An intensive interference competition, instead, seemed to be evident between common buzzards and goshawks, because the fledgling production of common buzzards was decreased by 20% as a result of failures during incubation and nestling period in the vicinity (<1 km) of occupied goshawk nests. Similarly, territory occupancy of common buzzards till the next breeding season was significantly reduced in the presence of goshawks. Relatively high proportions of occupied buzzard territories (17%) in the study area were shared by breeding goshawks on the same territory. This suggests that although their diets are dissimilar they inhabit similar habitats and might compete for the available prime nesting habitats within forest landscapes. In addition, goshawks benefit from taking over the complete nests of other raptors, imposing upon the original owners of the nest, because building a large stick nest is probably energetically costly. As a large raptor, the goshawk apparently has a competitive advantage over smaller ones, and may have an ever-increasing impact on smaller birds of prey, if there is a lack of sheltered forests inducing competition for the available nest sites.

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