The White-tailed Hawk (Geranoaetus albicaudatus) is listed as a state threatened species in Texas. It occupies prairies and savannas of the Gulf Coastal Plain, but also the barrier islands, many of which are exposed to rapid development and other human disturbances. This is a concern as White-tailed Hawks are known to be highly sensitive to nesting disturbance. We examined the breeding ecology of White-tailed Hawks on 3 Texas barrier islands with low (Matagorda Island) and high (Mustang and North Padre Islands) human disturbance. We found nearest-neighbor distances of nesting pairs were lowest on the island with low human disturbance (1.9 ± 0.9 km) compared to those on islands with high disturbance (2.6 ± 0.8 to 5.6 ± 3.8 km). The highest and lowest daily survival rates for nests occurred on the low human disturbance island in 2006 (0.9954) and 2007 (0.9876). The number of fledglings produced per nesting attempt was significantly lower in 2007 compared to 2006 on the low human disturbance island (P = 0.024), but there was no difference in productivity between years on the high human disturbance islands (P = 0.845). The lower density but larger fledgling numbers in the high human disturbance area may be a result of fewer White-tailed Hawks having adapted to human disturbance, but that lower density allowing for increased territory sizes and wider access to prey resources which, in turn, may have yielded increased productivity. In contrast the low human disturbance areas appear to be saturated and productivity may be limited by density-dependent factors. If White-tailed Hawks are to be conserved on the barrier islands, a better understanding of the species’ tolerance and adaptability to human disturbance is needed, and a balance will need to be found between continued anthropogenic development and maintenance of adequate foraging and nesting habitat.

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