Get access

Competition with Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca overrides environmental factors in determining productivity of Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus


*Corresponding author. Email:


We studied a population of Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus that has recently colonized the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Black Sparrowhawks are winter breeders: over most of their range winters are dry, but the Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean climate, with most rain falling in winter. The birds bred at an average density of 38 pairs/100 km2. Monitoring of 70 breeding attempts by 26 pairs showed that the birds favoured large stands of trees for breeding. Birds breeding in smaller stands were more randomly spaced, dispersion being determined by habitat availability. Parameters related to climate, habitat and aspects of nest-site selection failed to predict the birds’ productivity despite the fact that they had recently colonized a novel climatic window. Rather, productivity was best explained by the probability of nest usurpation by highly aggressive Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. Pairs encountering Goose usurpation problems raised an average of 0.76 chicks per breeding attempt, compared with 1.58 chicks for pairs without Geese. The only defence against nest usurpation by Geese appears to be the construction of multiple nests, an option most available to and most exploited by birds breeding in large stands of trees.