Breeding biology of the Red Kite Milvus milvus in Corsica
Article first published online: 7 JUL 2006
Volume 148, Issue 3, pages 436–448, July 2006
How to Cite
MOUGEOT, F. and BRETAGNOLLE, V. (2006), Breeding biology of the Red Kite Milvus milvus in Corsica. Ibis, 148: 436–448. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00558.x
- Issue published online: 7 JUL 2006
- Article first published online: 7 JUL 2006
- Received 16 August 2005; revision accepted 31 January 2006.
The breeding biology of the Red Kite Milvus milvus is still little known in the southern part of its range (Mediterranean), despite recent conservation concerns and major declines in most insular populations (Sicily, Sardinia and Balearics). We report here on the breeding biology of the Red Kite in Corsica in 1996–99 and on recent population trends there. In a 42-km2 study area located in the northwest of the island (Balagne region), breeding density was locally high (1.17–1.78 breeding pairs/km2). Breeding dispersion ranged from loosely colonial to dispersed, with average nearest-neighbour distance of 444 ± 316 m (range 50–2000) (all data as means ± sd). Kites established breeding territories in January–February, and 92.4% of territorial pairs laid a clutch (n = 238). Laying took place between February and May (mean lay date: 27 March ± 16 days, n = 147). Clutch size averaged 2.44 ± 0.71 (1–5 eggs, n = 96), hatching success 66.9% and fledging success 78.6%. Productivity averaged 1.33 ± 0.88 young per breeding attempt (n = 221) and 1.65 ± 0.65 young per successful breeding attempt (n = 173). Overall breeding success was 51.4 ± 38.0% (n = 88). We describe the growth of young (wing, weight, tarsus and bill) and show a marked seasonal decline in clutch size and breeding performance, with pairs laying earlier producing larger clutches and being more successful than later breeding pairs. Unlike most other insular Mediterranean Red Kite populations that have recently declined, the breeding population in the northwest of Corsica, which accounts for c. 25% of the whole island population, increased from 25 to 35 pairs in 1989 to a maximum of 80–90 pairs in 1997. This increase was probably related to the lack of persecution and a local increase in abundance of Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, following their introduction in the late 1970s, which provided an important feeding resource for Kites. Finally, we compare our results with those from other Red Kite populations studied in Europe. We found that there is a latitudinal gradient in laying date and productivity across Western Europe populations, but no evidence of an insular syndrome in the Corsican population.