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African Zoology

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The effect of cat Felis catus predation on three breeding Procellariidae species on Marion Island

P.J.J. van Rensburg, M.N. Bester

Abstract


Breeding success of Pterodroma macroptera, Procellaria aequinoctialis and Pachyptila vittata salvini in three cat-free and three control areas were used to evaluate the effects of cat Felis catus predation on the avifauna of Marion Island. Breeding success of all three species was significantly higher in the combined cat-free areas than in the combined control areas. However, breeding success in one cat-free area failed to show a significant difference from its particular control area, probably as a result of higher skua (Catharacta antarctica) predation inside the cat-free area. Chicks of P. macroptera and P. aequinoctialis were especially vulnerable to cat predation, since cats can enter their nesting burrows. P. macroptera was seriously affected by cat predation because it is the most abundant of only two winter-breeding petrels. Significant changes in the number of nest visits by these petrels during their breeding season followed hatching dates, which in turn were concomitant with, or were followed by significant differences in the combined breeding success between the cat-free and control areas. The cat-free areas show that an elimination of cat predation would still favour the recovery of the petrel population.



AJOL African Journals Online