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Birds are suffering from steep population declines on a global scale and they are one of the few taxonomic groups for which these declines are well documented by long-term monitoring data. This study provides a synthesis of the status of the breeding birds of Greece. To this aim, we retrieved population size estimates from six sources spanning 22 years (1992–2014) and calculated species’ trends in Greece. Using the IUCN Red List assessments for each species we assessed whether ecological traits including habitat and diet preferences were associated with species’ trends and conservation status in Europe and determined major threats affecting birds in Greece. Moreover, we assessed the importance of Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in terms of declining trigger species. Results showed that almost one fifth of the breeding birds in Greece have declining populations. Raptors were found to be the most threatened group of birds whereas the highest declines by dietary group were observed in scavengers, with 60% of species showing a decreasing trend. The most common threats were those that cause habitat alteration and degradation as well as more direct effects such as poisoning. Our results suggest that restoration of habitat and ecosystem functions along with the management of protected areas and improvement of legislation should be the main conservation actions undertaken and pinpointed the IBAs where they should be prioritized for implementation. Finally, further research, especially on specific drivers of population change, along with further examination of current and past population trends, will increase the power and accuracy of future regional Red List assessments especially concerning the breeding species for which the country bears the greatest responsibility.
A prominent threat to European vultures has been sanitary regulations that banned the disposal of livestock carcasses. Changes in food abundance following these regulations have been associated with changes in vulture behaviour and demographic parameters, but to what extent diet changes are responsible for population declines is poorly understood. The Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus is the smallest and most threatened European vulture species and has an opportunistic and diverse diet. In Eastern Europe, the Egyptian Vulture population is declining more rapidly than elsewhere but there is little information on diet composition and the relationship between diet and demographic parameters to inform conservation management. We examined whether Egyptian Vulture population declines in Bulgaria and Greece may have been associated with diet changes that affected breeding productivity by monitoring breeding success and collecting diet remains from 143 Egyptian Vulture breeding attempts between 2006 and 2013. We found no relationship between diet diversity or composition and productivity. However, there was a significant relationship between occupancy rate of territories and diet diversity, indicating that occupancy rate decreased with a very diverse or a very narrow diet and a higher proportion of wild animals or a lower proportion of livestock in the diet. There was no temporal change in diet diversity in Bulgaria after admission to the EU in 2007. We conclude that it is unlikely that diet limitations on reproductive output are a critical threat to Egyptian Vultures on the Balkan Peninsula. The relationship between diet diversity and territory occupancy rate may indicate that adult birds with a very narrow or a very broad diet may be more susceptible to consuming poisoned carcasses, and more information on the effect of diet availability on adult and juvenile survival would be useful to inform and improve conservation management actions.
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