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Conservation status and community structure of cliff-nesting raptors and ravens on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

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We detail the sizes, spatial distributions and trends in nest site selection of cliff-nesting raptor and raven populations resident in the mountains of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. We also assess the conservation value of these populations to inform the future management of the newly-established Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), and examine the structure and interrelations within the raptor community. The combined number, dispersion and density of nests (n = 96 nests, mean inter-nest distance = 0.59km, density = 30.0 pairs/100km2) are comparable with those of high-density raptor populations studied elsewhere in Africa and the world. Densities of Verreauxs' Eagle Aquila verreauxii (n = 2, 12.01km, 0.6 pairs/100km2, respectively) and Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus (n = 9, 4.63, 2.8 pairs/100km2), are low, Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus (n = 44, 1.75km, 13.8 pairs/100km2) high and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus (n = 19, 3.13km, 5.9 pairs/100km2) exceptional, relative to populations of the same or similar species in other areas. There are no comparable data for White-necked Raven Corvus albicollis (n = 22, 3.22km, 6.9 pairs/100km2). All species combined, and Peregrines in particular, significantly prefer high cliffs from the available habitat. Peregrines generally dominate the other species, may affect cliff site selection and dispersion in the rest of the community, and tend to locate their nests close to those of White-necked Ravens. Numbers of Verreauxs' Eagle are lower than recent historical levels, perhaps because key prey populations are depleted. Any future recovery of this large predator could subtly affect the entire assemblage. This cliff-nesting raptor community is a significant asset of the TMNP, and should be considered in management decisions taken in the Park, particularly those concerning the regulation of leisure activities in the vicinity of nesting areas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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