Summary & Purpose
Wildfires and invasive species have caused widespread changes in western North America's shrub-steppe landscapes. The bottom-up consequences of degraded shrublands on predator ecology and demography remain poorly understood. We used a before-after paired design to study whether Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) diet and nestling survivorship changed following wildfires in southwestern Idaho, USA. We assessed burn extents from 1981 – 2013 and vegetation changes between 1979 (pre-burn) and 2014 (post-burn) within 3 km of Golden Eagle nesting centroids. We measured the frequency and biomass of individual prey, calculated diet diversity indexes, and monitored nestling survivorship at 15 territories in 1971 – 1981 and 2014 – 2015. On average, 0.70 of the area within 3 km of nesting centroids burned between 1981 – 2013, and the mean proportion of unburned shrubland decreased from 0.73 in 1979 to 0.22 in 2014. Diets in post-burn years were more diverse and had a lower proportion of some shrub-associated species, like Black-tailed Jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) and Mountain Cottontails (Sylvilagus nuttallii), and a higher proportion of American Coots (Fulica americana), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Piute Ground Squirrels (Urocitellus mollis), and Rock Pigeons (Columba livia) compared to pre-burn years. A high proportion of waterfowl represented a novel change in Golden Eagle diets, which are typically dominated by mammalian prey. Nestling survivorship was positively associated with the proportion of Black-tailed Jackrabbits and negatively associated with the proportion of Rock Pigeons in eagle diets. Rock Pigeons are a vector for Trichomonas gallinae, a disease-causing protozoan lethal to young eagles. Nesting attempts were more likely to fail (all young die) in the post-burn period compared to the pre-burn period. Dietary shifts are a common mechanism for predators to cope with landscape change, but shifts away from preferred prey to disease vectors affect nestling survivorship and could lead to population-level effects on productivity.
Date of Publication or Submission
Funded by the USFWS Western Golden Eagle Team (F14AP00167 and F15AP00200), BLM (L14AC00342), the National Science Foundation (NSF) Idaho EPSCoR Program (award IIA-1301792), NSF Division of Biological Infrastructure (award 1263167), and the Raptor Research Center and Department of Biological Sciences at Boise State University.
Single Dataset or Series?
*.csv; *.png; *.txt
See file: READ ME for goea diet data 20210601.txt
1971-1981 and 2014-2015
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Heath, Julie A.; Kochert, Mike; and Steenhof, Karen. (2021). Dataset for Golden Eagle Dietary Shifts Following Wildfire and Shrub Loss Have Negative Consequences for Nestling Survivorship [Data set]. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.18122/bio_data.8.boisestate
Available for download on Thursday, June 08, 2023