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Spacing and physical habitat selection patterns by peregrine falcons in central West Greenland

January 1, 2005

We examined nest-site spacing and selection of nesting cliffs by Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) in central West Greenland. Our sample included 67 nesting cliffs that were occupied at least once between 1972 and 1999 and 38 cliffs with no known history of Peregrine Falcon occupancy. We measured 29 eyrie, cliff, and topographical features at each occupied nesting cliff and unused cliff in 1998a??1999 and used them to model the probability of peregrines occupying a cliff for a breeding attempt. Nearest-neighbor distance was significantly greater than both nearest-cliff distance and nearest-occupied distance (the distance between an occupied cliff and one occupied at least once, 1972a??1999). Thus, spacing among occupied cliffs was probably the most important factor limiting nesting-cliff availability, and, ultimately, peregrine nesting densities. Although some unused cliffs were unavailable in a given year because of peregrine spacing behavior, physical characteristics apparently made some cliffs unsuitable, regardless of availability. We confirmed the importance of several features common to descriptions of peregrine nesting habitat and found that peregrines occupied tall nesting cliffs with open views. They chose nesting cliffs with eyrie ledges that provided a moderate degree of overhang protection and that were inaccessible to ground predators. Overall, we concluded that certain features of a cliff were important in determining its suitability as a nest site, but within a given breeding season there also must be sufficient spacing between neighboring falcon pairs. Our habitat model and information on spacing requirements may be applicable to other areas of Greenland and the Arctic, and can be used to test the generalities about features of Peregrine Falcon nesting cliffs throughout the species' widespread distribution.

Publication Year 2005
Title Spacing and physical habitat selection patterns by peregrine falcons in central West Greenland
DOI 10.1676/04-036.1
Authors Catherine S Wightman, Mark R. Fuller
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Wilson Bulletin
Index ID 1016387
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center