Nestboxes and immigration drive the growth of an urban Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus population

Authors

  • Res Altwegg,

    Corresponding author
    1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Claremont, South Africa
    2. Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
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  • Andrew Jenkins,

    1. Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
    2. Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
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  • Fitsum Abadi

    1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Claremont, South Africa
    2. Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
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Abstract

Drivers of wildlife population dynamics are generally numerous and interacting. Some of these drivers may impact demographic processes that are difficult to estimate, such as immigration into the focal population. Populations may furthermore be small and subject to demographic stochasticity. All of these factors contribute to blur the causal relationship between past management action and current population trends. The urban Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus population in Cape Town, South Africa, increased from three pairs in 1997 to 18 pairs in 2010. Nestboxes were installed over this period to manage the interface between new urban pairs of Falcons and the human users of colonized buildings, and incidentally to improve breeding success. We used integrated population models (IPMs) formally to combine information from a capture–mark–recapture study, monitoring of reproductive success and counts of population size. As all local demographic processes were directly observed, the IPM approach also allowed us to estimate immigration by difference. The provision of nestboxes, as a possible stimulant of population growth, improved breeding success and accounted for an estimated 3–26% of the population increase. The most important driver of growth, however, was immigration. Despite low sample sizes, the IPM approach allowed us to obtain relatively precise estimates of the population-level impact of nestbox deployment. The goal of conservation interventions is often to increase population size, so the effectiveness of such interventions should ideally be assessed at the population level. IPMs are powerful tools in this context for combining demographic information that may be limited due to small population size or practical constraints on monitoring. Our study quantitatively documented both the immigration process that led to growth of a small population and the effect of a management action that helped the process.

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