Breeding performance of an apex predator, the peregrine falcon, across urban and rural landscapes

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Kettel, Esther F.
Gentle, Louise K.
Yarnell, Richard W.
Quinn, John L.
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Springer Nature
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Urban environments present wildlife with major challenges and yet surprising numbers of species have colonised towns and cities globally. Despite the growing realisation that urban centres can be important habitats for wildlife, why some species do better than others in urban environments remains poorly understood. Here, we compare the breeding performance of an apex predator, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), in urban and rural environments, and test whether variation in reproductive success between and within environments is driven by prey. Historical breeding data were collected from raptor study groups across Great Britain between 2006 and 2016, from 22 urban and 58 rural nest sites, involving 101 and 326 nesting attempts, respectively. Prey density, biomass and diversity around the individual nests was estimated using modelled estimates from a national bird census. Urban peregrines produced more fledglings and had a higher overall nesting success (i.e. whether a nesting attempt was successful or unsuccessful) than rural peregrines. Prey density and biomass were significantly higher, and diversity significantly lower, in the urban sites, and explained the variation in reproductive success within both the urban and rural environments. Therefore, urban environments in Great Britain appear to provide peregrine falcons with superior habitats in terms of prey availability compared to rural habitats. We conclude that some apex predators can benefit from urban environments and that urban planning has the potential to benefit biodiversity across many trophic levels.
Falco peregrinus , Urban predator , Urbanisation , Productivity , Breeding bird survey
Kettel, E.F., Gentle, L.K., Yarnell, R.W. and Quinn, J.L., 2019. Breeding performance of an apex predator, the peregrine falcon, across urban and rural landscapes. Urban Ecosystems, 22(1), (9pp). DOI:10.1007/s11252-018-0799-x