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Population dynamics and spatial distribution of Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) in Portugal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2008

Floris van Beest
Affiliation:
Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Postbus 47, 6400 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Loes van den Bremer
Affiliation:
Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Postbus 47, 6400 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Willem F. de Boer*
Affiliation:
Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Postbus 47, 6400 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Ignas M. A. Heitkönig
Affiliation:
Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Postbus 47, 6400 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Antonio E. Monteiro
Affiliation:
Parque Natural do Douro Internacional, Rua de St. Marinha 4, 5200 Mogadouro, Portugal
*
* Author for correspondence. e-mail: fred.deboer@wur.nl
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Abstract

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The global decrease of vulture populations has been attributed to several factors, such as food availability, poisoning, human disturbance, or habitat suitability. We studied the effect of factors that vary both spatially and temporally on the nest site distribution of the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus in northeast Portugal, and influence the population dynamics of these cliff-dwelling birds. Several demographic parameters were studied in the field, and the age structure of the population was determined. Additionally we investigated how food availability affected population fluctuations. The vulture population was most sensitive to juvenile mortality according to our model results. Our models showed that a decrease in the present food supply resulted in a decrease in vulture abundance and, moreover, negatively affected the spatial distribution of the species by decreasing the number of breeding pairs per colony. The total quantity of sheep and goat biomass, a greater distance to the nearest unpaved road, and the presence of Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus at the breeding colonies showed a significant positive relationship to the numbers of Griffon Vulture breeding pairs. It is recommended that the available food supply in the most important foraging areas should be monitored and protected. Furthermore, to manage the community of cliff breeding raptors adequately, future research should identify and protect the most suitable breeding areas for each species. Human disturbance should be kept to a minimum by protecting breeding areas, especially in an area like Riba-Côa where species such as the Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus and Griffon Vulture breed so close to each other.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Birdlife International 2008
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