Research Article

South African raptors in urban landscapes: a review


Abstract

Globally, but especially in Africa, increasing human populations and anthropogenic land-use change are generally affecting diversity negatively. Urban environments in southern Africa typically comprise a mosaic landscape of anthropogenic infrastructure with some green spaces. These urban cities have a range of fauna that have persisted or increased in population density compared with areas that are more natural. We analysed the occurrence of diurnal and nocturnal raptors using South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) data and reviewed literature. We found 66 raptor species occurred in South African cities. Thirty species had reporting frequencies greater than 10% in at least one of the 11 cities assessed, revealing impressive diversity of the raptor clade in South African cities. Five species were both abundant and widespread, occurring >10% in five or more cities each, of which three belong to the scavenger guild: Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus, African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer, Common Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus, Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius and Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus. However, only a few of these 66 raptors had been extensively studied in urban areas: the Black Sparrowhawk, African Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus, Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. This lack of research is specifically severe, given that Africa is hosting a unique and diverse range of raptor species and that numbers and diversity of raptors have declined dramatically over the past decades across the continent. In fact, these four extensively studied species occurred in higher densities in urban areas than rural areas, which indicates that urban areas might create valuable opportunities for urban conservation, not least through public engagement.

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