We investigated the departure, transient movement, and local settlement stages of natal dispersal in a population of Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) on the Kaibab Plateau of northern Arizona. The study included 614 color-banded juveniles produced at 555 nests during 1991–2003, 89 of which were radio-marked during 1998–2001. Radio-marked juveniles initiated dispersal between 71 and 103 days posthatching, and spent between 33 and 66 days in the natal territory after fledging. Our best-fitting proportional hazards models predicted the timing of dispersal as a function of annual differences in the density of primary bird and mammal prey species, weather conditions, and natal brood size. Once dispersal was initiated, most juveniles moved into the more open habitats that surrounded the study area and few eventually returned to breed; first-year fidelity to the local natal population was 28%, and only 69 (11%) color-banded juveniles had entered the territorial population by 2004. Median natal dispersal distance on the Kaibab Plateau was 15.0 km (range = 0.1–58.1 km), a distance equivalent to about four times the diameter of an average breeding territory (3.8 km). Local settlement behavior of Northern Goshawks appeared to be driven by a combination of intraspecific competition for a limited number of breeding opportunities and inbreeding avoidance. However, much of the natal dispersal process operated at broad spatial scales beyond our study population, indicating a potentially high level of demographic connectivity among naturally fragmented breeding populations in the American Southwest.
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Vol. 108 • No. 2