Site quality may influence breeding performance especially in raptors showing strong territory fidelity as predicted by the site-dependent population regulation hypothesis. Thus, the occupancy of nest-sites is non-random, indicating a preference of certain territories, apparently of higher quality. During four breeding seasons (2003–2006), we recorded the occupancy rate and the number of young fledged from Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus feldeggii nest-sites in eastern Sicily, Italy. Breeding sites with different occupancy rates showed significant differences in environmental attributes, mainly altitude. A generalised linear model revealed a significant effect of the slope of the nest-site on mean fledgling number per successful pair. In addition, the mean slope of the nest territory and the slope of the nest-site are the main predictors for differentiating the cliff selection by Lanners and by much more competitive Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus. Finally, our results suggest a crucial role of the high quality sites for the population viability. Occupancy rates were positively related to the mean number of young fledged per territorial pair and during the four years of the study period six high quality nest-sites raised 58% of young produced in the whole study area. We suggest that the annual production of young of the high quality territories should be preserved and that evaluation of the effective contribution of the low quality sites for the persistence of a viable population in Sicily should be performed.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1