Nest-site characteristics, breeding success and competitive interactions between two recently sympatric apex predators

Guilad Friedemann, Yossi Leshem, Lior Kerem, Avi Bar-Massada, Ido Izhaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An influential period in avian life-cycles is the annual breeding season, when competition over suitable nesting sites and territories is a key factor that can determine fitness and distribution, especially for species that are highly selective in their nesting habitats. We analysed nest-site characteristics, breeding success and competitive interactions between two apex predator populations. Whereas the Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus has nested in the Judean Foothills (Israel) for a long time, the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus has only invaded the nesting habitat of the Short-toed Eagle during their breeding season in the last two decades. These two recently sympatric species have similar nesting ecology and frequently use the same nests. They are therefore expected to compete over nesting sites and territories. We analysed interspecific interactions between these two species by combining information from comprehensive observational, experimental, GIS analysis and remote sensing data, deriving 65 variables to characterize the nest-sites used and the breeding success in 381 breeding attempts over four consecutive breeding seasons. To assess interspecific and intraspecific territorial behaviour and aggressiveness, stuffed Long-legged Buzzards and Short-toed Eagles were presented close to nests. Nest-site characteristics overlapped substantially between species, and Long-legged Buzzards occupied 21% of all Short-toed Eagle nests. Intraspecific aggression rates among Long-legged Buzzards were higher than their interspecific aggression rates with Short-toed Eagles and also higher than intraspecific aggression among Short-toed Eagles. Long-legged Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle breeding densities (1.59 ± 0.11 and 2.96 ± 0.11 pairs per 10 km2, respectively) are likely to be the highest across their respective breeding distributions, with a maximum productivity of 0.96 ± 0.01 and 0.56 ± 0.05 (young fledged/breeding pair) for Long-legged Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle, respectively. Intraspecific interactions among both species play an important role in determining their breeding success and the spatial distribution of nesting sites. Our results suggest that interspecific competition over nesting sites and territories between both species, and the potential dominance of Long-legged Buzzard, has both direct and indirect impacts on the spatial and demographic distribution of Short-toed Eagles due to the recent establishment of Long-legged Buzzard territories in the Judean breeding area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-827
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 British Ornithologists’ Union


  • Long-legged Buzzard
  • Short-toed Eagle
  • aggressive interactions
  • interspecific competition
  • nest occupation
  • remote sensing
  • territorial aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Nest-site characteristics, breeding success and competitive interactions between two recently sympatric apex predators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this