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Woolaver L.G.,York University | Nichols R.K.,Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada | Morton E.S.,York University | Stutchbury B.J.M.,York University
Journal of Field Ornithology | Year: 2013

Ridgway's Hawks (Buteo ridgwayi) are critically endangered forest raptors endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with ∼100 pairs remaining in the world. The species is ecologically little known yet such studies are important for understanding critical habitat needs and population dynamics. We studied the provisioning behavior of adults at 22 nests on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic from 2005 to 2008. Mean brood size was 1.80 ± 0.45, and the mean number of fledglings per nest was 1.10 ± 0.97. We found that 80% of the prey items delivered to nestlings were reptiles, with lizards accounting for 65% of the prey and those in the genus Celestus accounting for nearly 35% of prey. Other prey items included snakes (14%), rats (9%), and smaller proportions of birds, frogs, and centipedes. The number of prey items and amount of biomass delivered to nestlings did not vary with brood size, but adults delivered more prey to 3- to 5-week-old nestlings and more biomass to 5-week-old nestlings. Food delivery rates did not differ between successful or failed nests, suggesting that food availability did not influence nest outcome. Given that most prey items delivered to nestlings in our study were reptiles, conservation strategies developed for Ridgway's Hawks (e.g., translocations and habitat conservation) should take into consideration their specialist reptile diet. © 2013 Association of Field Ornithologists.

Woolaver L.G.,York University | Woolaver L.G.,British Petroleum | Nichols R.K.,Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada | Morton E.,York University | Stutchbury B.J.M.,York University
Journal of Raptor Research | Year: 2013

Variation in nestling sex ratio is an important concept in population ecology, and has particular implications for the conservation status of small populations. Research on species exhibiting Reversed Sexual Size Dimorphism (RSSD), in which females are larger than males, have shown that significant biases in nestling sex ratios can result from demographic and environmental conditions experienced by parents during the breeding episode. We collected morphometric measurements from the critically endangered Ridgway's Hawk (Buteo ridgwayi) over a 4-yr period, verifying that the species exhibits RSSD. Females weighed 25% more than males and were significantly larger for 7 of 12 body measurements. Nestling sex-ratios were determined by PCR amplification of the CHD1 gene. The results revealed a weak but consistent trend toward female-biased broods for the small remaining population. Parents may potentially be producing more females, the more costly sex, due to an ample food supply and adaptive allocation of parental care. A female-bias sex ratio may also signal management concern for the species if it is caused by inbreeding; however, currently the bias is not significant enough to warrant immediate intense nest intervention or nest management for this critically endangered species. © The Raptor Research Foundation, Inc.

Woolaver L.G.,York University | Woolaver L.G.,British Petroleum | Nichols R.K.,Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada | Morton E.S.,York University | Stutchbury B.J.M.,York University
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2013

Many island avian populations are of conservation interest because they have a higher risk of extinction than mainland populations. Susceptibility of island birds to extinction is primarily related to human induced change through habitat loss, persecution, and introduction of exotic species, in combination with genetic factors. We used microsatellite profiles from 11 loci to assess genetic diversity and relatedness in the critically endangered hawk Buteo ridgwayi endemic to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Using samples collected between 2005 and 2009, our results revealed a relatively high level of heterozygosity, evidence of a recent genetic bottleneck, and the occurrence of inbreeding within the population. Pair relatedness analysis found 4 of 7 sampled breeding pairs to be related similar to that of first cousin or greater. Pedigree estimates indicated that up to 18 % of potential pairings would be between individuals with relatedness values similar to that of half-sibling. We discuss our findings in the context of conservation genetic management suggesting both carefully managed translocations and the initiation of a captive population as a safeguard of the remaining genetic diversity. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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