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The demography of a newly established Osprey Pandion haliaetus population in France

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Abstract

Using long-term mark–resighting data acquired over 27 years in continental France, we estimated demographic parameters and modelled the dynamics of a newly established population of Ospreys Pandion haliaetus using a life-history model. We then performed prospective and retrospective analyses to estimate the sensitivity of the population growth rate to demographic parameters, and to quantify their contribution to the observed variation in abundance. The observed population growth rate was estimated at 1.150 (from one to 38 pairs in the period 1985–2011), and the stochastic population growth rate was estimated at 1.156. The number of fledglings per nest made the largest contribution to the variance of the observed population growth rate. Breeding productivity was stable across years. In contrast, the prospective analysis indicated that the sensitivity of the population growth rate was greatest for immigration and adult survival. Our results suggest that the increase of a new and recently established breeding population of Ospreys was mainly driven by local dynamics (high productivity and high proportion of breeding individuals), with no sign of density-dependence except for juvenile survival. This probably reflects highly favourable conditions for breeding. Our results show that productivity can be a major driver in recovering raptor populations, and conservation work should aim to protect occupied nest-sites and their surrounding habitat and to maintain highly favourable foraging areas in the vicinity of breeding sites.

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