Factors influencing Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus territory site selection and breeding success


Capsule: Our findings regarding Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus territory site selection and breeding success in Ireland offer an opportunity for the development of initiatives and conservation actions aimed at enhancing the suitability of upland areas for breeding Hen Harriers and ensuring the long-term persistence of the species. Aims: To investigate landscape-scale associations between habitat composition and Hen Harrier territory site selection, and to explore the influence of habitat and climate on breeding success.Methods: We used multi-model inference from generalized linear models and Euclidean distance analyses to explore the influence of habitat, topographic, anthropogenic and climatic factors on Hen Harrier territory selection and breeding success in Ireland, based on data from national breeding surveys in 2010 and 2015.Results: Hen Harrier territories were associated with heath/shrub, bog and pre-thicket coniferous forests. Comparisons between territories and randomly generated pseudo-absences (upland and lowland) showed that breeding pairs preferentially select for these habitats. Breeding success was negatively influenced by rainfall early in the breeding season and by climatic instability, and was positively influenced by the presence of heath/shrub and bog.Conclusions: The results suggest that Hen Harrier breeding success is compromised by the synergistic effects of climate, landscape composition and management. Effective conservation of Hen Harriers in Ireland will therefore rely on landscape-scale initiatives.

Bird Study
Anthony Caravaggi
Anthony Caravaggi
Lecturer in Conservation Biology

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.