Few studies have examined raptor reproduction in response to land-use change in sub-Saharan Africa, hampering conservation efforts to address regional declines. To further our understanding of mechanisms underlying the dramatic declines of West African raptors, we examined the relationship between environmental conditions, nest density, and measures of reproduction in the Grasshopper Buzzard (Butastur rufipennis). Analyses were based on 244 nest sites divided between transformed and natural habitat in northern Cameroon. At the landscape scale, nest density increased with the density of preferred nest trees. Nests were more widely spaced in transformed than in natural habitat. Dispersion was adjusted to differences in availability of small mammals, which was negatively associated with distance to nearest neighbor, and in the area under cultivation, which was positively associated with distance to nearest neighbor. Productivity was positively associated with rainfall, canopy shielding the nest, availability of grasshoppers, and the nest's visibility from ground level; canopy shielding, grass cover, rainfall, and distance to nearest neighbor were positively associated with nest success. In natural habitat, losses of eggs and nestlings to natural predators were greater than in transformed habitats, while losses through human predation were small. Productivity and nest success were unaffected by land use because of the opposing effects of greater predation pressure, closer spacing of nests, and more food in natural habitat than in transformed habitat. Thus transformed habitat may provide adequate breeding habitat for the Grasshopper Buzzard, but declining rainfall and intensifying anthropogenic land use are likely to affect future reproductive output.
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Vol. 115 • No. 1