The demographic consequences of within-population variability in predator foraging are not well understood. We assessed the relationship between the degree of diet specialization and two demographic parameters, population density and reproductive output, within a single population of Imperial Eagles Aquila heliaca at a nature reserve in north-central Kazakhstan. Nearest-neighbour distances between eagle nests throughout the reserve, and thus population density, were correlated with the degree to which diets were specialized. Diet diversity showed an extensive regional variability that was linked to prey distributions, but within-year analyses of reproductive output did not show similar linkages. However, multi-year analyses of breeding performance showed inter-regional differences in nesting success that were paralleled, and probably driven by, similar trends in diet diversity. In contrast, brood size at fledging was not linked to diet diversity and was more probably driven by reserve-wide influences such as weather. Finally, the decision to initiate breeding was associated neither with diet diversity nor with environmental variability. Our results indicate that the degree of dietary specialization is linked to the demographics of Imperial Eagle populations. For these and other raptor populations, it is possible that management could be used separately to increase or decrease nesting success, brood size at fledging, and the likelihood that a pair will initiate breeding.
Additional publication details
Relationship between demographics and diet specificity of Imperial Eagles Aquila heliaca in Kazakhstan