Ornis Hungarica. vol.22(1). (2014) p.57-68.
Simultaneous effect of habitat and age on reproductive success of Imperial Eagles (Aquila heliaca) in Hungary
An unexpected expansion of the Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) population was observed in East Hungary from mountainous habitat into lowlands from 1989 onwards. Here the population markedly increased from 2 to 59 breeding pairs by 2006, while the mountainous population remained more or less stable with 12-17 breeding pairs. At the beginning of the expansion process the nearest neighbour distances between breeding pairs was lower in the mountains than in the lowlands, but presently they are similar, indicating a saturation process in the lowland areas, but no density dependence was revealed on breeding success. During the study period a higher ratio of non-adult pairs was observed in the lowland territories (49%) than in the mountains (22%). We found that both age and habitat influenced breeding success. We also found that age-effect was significant on success rate (i.e. the ratio of pairs that produce at least one chick), while habitat-effect was more evident on fledging success (i.e. the number of fledglings per productive pair). The overall productivity (i.e. number of fledglings per breeding pair) was affected primarily by the age of the pairs, but the interaction term of age x habitat also was significant. We suppose that better feeding possibilities (closer foraging areas and larger prey density) could explain the higher fledging success in the lowlands. We also predicted that pairs inhabiting agricultural areas in the lowlands will have a reduced success rate due to higher human disturbance, together with an age effect of the breeding pairs. Therefore adult pairs probably can habituate to disturbance even if it happens in the close vicinity of their nesting sites.