Data from: Adaptability of a specialist predator: the effects of land use on diet diversification and breeding performance of Verreaux’s eagles
Murgatroyd, Megan et al. (2016), Data from: Adaptability of a specialist predator: the effects of land use on diet diversification and breeding performance of Verreaux’s eagles, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h5vb2
Specialist predators are generally negatively impacted by habitat change. Predators that inhabit transformed areas are usually forced to diversify their diet and this departure away from traditional resources can have negative consequences for fitness and demographic parameters. We consider this relationship as it applies to Verreaux's eagles Aquila verreauxii, which is typically considered to be a highly specialised predator of hyraxes (Procavia and Heterohyrax spp.). We investigate diet in relation to land cover in two adjacent areas of South Africa and explore the links between diet diversity, the percentage of hyrax consumed, and the breeding performance of eagles. We also examine these same patterns using data from other studies. We found that diet diversity was greater in the agriculturally developed Sandveld region compared to the natural Cederberg region. Proportions of the three main prey types were correlated with the proportion of agriculturally developed land around the nest site. Breeding performance was correlated with the diet, but not in the manner expected, with breeding productivity being greater in regions with large diet diversity and a small proportion of hyrax in the diet. We found similar patterns when placing our results into a broader geographical context using other dietary studies of Verreaux's eagles, suggesting our results were not unique to our study system. Thus, our results suggest that diet diversification does not necessarily impinge on breeding performance in the presence of adequate alternative prey resources. This research adds to the growing number of studies suggesting that some predators may be adaptable up to a threshold level of habitat transformation. These results have implications for predicting changes on such species by anthropogenic habitat transformation and highlight the potential for agriculturally developed areas to maintain a conservation value when habitat heterogeneity is maintained.