Evaluating the severity of the population bottleneck in the Mauritius kestrel Falco punctatus from ringing records using MCMC estimation


Richard Nichols, School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London E1 4NS, UK. Tel.: + 44 171775 3055. Fax: + 44 181983 0973. E-mail:r.a.nichols@qmw.ac.uk


  • 1 The Mauritius kestrel Falco punctatus (Temminck 1823) has recovered from very low numbers. In order to evaluate the severity of the population bottleneck that it experienced, we have developed a method for estimating the productivity of the nests that escaped detection. This method uses ringing records for MCMC estimation of parameters describing the recruitment of adults to the breeding population and the growth in productivity of undiscovered nests.
  • 2 Comparison of the estimates for the two restored populations (eastern and western) showed a far lower proportion of undiscovered nests in the former, as predicted because of widespread use of nestboxes. This served to verify the method of estimation. The estimates show a steady increase in population size, in contrast with field estimates indicating a recent reduction in growth.
  • 3 The results suggest that the alarmingly low estimates of population size in 1974 (two breeding pairs) were accurate, and that few undiscovered nests existed during the bottleneck.
  • 4 The recovery of the population seems to have been initiated by the intensive conservation effort. The most rapid period of population growth coincides with the reintroduction programme. The results imply that the eastern population is much more reliant on intensive management for its future growth.