Breeding biology and nestling development of the Grasshopper Buzzard
AbstractResearch into the effect of environmental variables on reproductive success of tropical raptors is often constrained by the lack of information on breeding biology. We provide the first detailed information of the breeding biology and nestling development of the Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis, an Afrotropical migratory raptor threatened by extensive land transformation in its breeding range. Breeding coincided with the transition from the dry to the wet season. The mean incubation period was 30 d and mean fledging period 36 d. The breeding period was characterised by rapid establishment of territories and short post-fledging dependency periods related to the onset of migration shortly after breeding. Growth rate of body mass, tarsus, wing and primary feathers were similar between sexes, which showed significant but moderate body mass dimorphism at fledging (♂85–90% of ♀). Second hatchlings were smaller in body mass and structural dimensions compared to similarly-aged first hatchlings and singles of the same sex. Survival of second hatchlings was related to body mass ratio with first hatchlings, whereas brood reduction occurred through food competition and siblicide. We provide ageing formulae and photographic records to facilitate further studies of Grasshopper Buzzard nestling development and reproductive success in the region.
Keywords: ageing, Butastur rufipennis, hatch order, reproduction, siblicide
OSTRICH 2012, 83(3): 137–146