ABSTRACT

Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are adaptable fish-eating raptors that readily nest on artificial structures in heavily human-dominated areas. Although the Osprey is a well-studied species, few researchers have investigated the factors that influence nest success and productivity in an urban environment. We monitored Osprey nests from 2013 to 2017 in highly urbanized Pinellas County, located on the west coast of central Florida, USA. We used logistic exposure models to assess the effects of timing of nesting, nest attributes (nest substrate, height), and landscape-level variables (inter-nest distance, distance to water, and surrounding habitat type) on daily survival rate (DSR) of Osprey nests. The number of active nests (i.e., nests with eggs) in the study area ranged from 53 in 2013 to 79 in 2016, with an overall total of 329 during the 5-yr study. Although most nests produced at least one young near fledging age, 131 of the nests failed. We attributed 45% of nest failures to storm events and 50% to unknown causes. The best logistic exposure model specification included only two variables: the discrete variable representing the date incubation started and the nominal variable indicating the year 2015. Osprey nests initiated earlier in the season were more likely to survive, and later nests (initiated after 22 April) averaged only one fledgling each. Osprey nests in 2015 had the highest DSR and relatively few failed due to storms. Our results supported previous research indicating that early nesters were more successful than late nesters. Our results also indicate that storms may play a role in nest success of Ospreys in Florida. Other variables, such as the amount of urbanized land surrounding Osprey nests did not appear to influence nest survival, indicating that Ospreys can be productive even in highly urban environments.

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