An assessment of tree availability as a possible cause of population declines in scavenging raptors

Corinne J. Kendall, Daniel Ian Rubenstein, Pamela L. Slater, Ara Monadjem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Lack of suitable nesting trees is an increasingly common issue for avian conservation given rampant habitat and tree destruction around the world. In the African savannah, habitat loss and particularly tree damage caused by elephants have been suggested as possible factors in the decline of large bird species. Given the recent declines of vultures and other scavenging raptors, it is critical to understand if nest availability is a limiting factor for these threatened populations. Loss of woodland, partially due to elephant populations, has been reported for the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Data on characteristics of trees used for nesting were collected for white-backed, lappet-faced, white-headed vulture, and tawny eagle nests in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Nest tree characteristics were compared with the distribution of a random subsample of trees to assess nest preferences and determine suitability of available trees. Nearest neighbor distances were estimated as well as availability of preferred nesting trees to determine if tree availability is a limiting factor for tree-nesting vultures. Tree availability was found to greatly exceed nesting needs for African vultures and tawny eagles. We thus conclude that on a landscape scale, tree availability is not a limiting factor for any of the species considered here (white-backed, lappet-faced, white-headed vultures and tawny eagles).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01497
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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