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Dispersal is a behavioral process having consequences for individual fitness and population dynamics. Recent advances in technology have spawned new theoretical examinations and empirical studies of the dispersal process in birds, providing opportunities for examining how this information may be applied to studies of the dispersal process in raptors. Many raptors are the focus of conservation efforts; thus, reliable data on all aspects of a species' population dynamics, including dispersal distances, movement rates, and mortality rates of dispersers, are required for population viability analyses that are increasingly used to inform management. Here, we address emerging issues and novel approaches used in the study of avian dispersal, and provide suggestions to consider when developing and implementing studies of dispersal in raptors. Clarifying study objectives is essential for selection of an appropriate methodology and sample size needed to obtain accurate estimates of movement distances and rates. Identifying an appropriate study-area size will allow investigators to avoid underestimating population connectivity and important population parameters. Because nomadic individuals of some species use temporary settling areas or home ranges before breeding, identification of these areas is critical for conservation efforts focusing on habitats other than breeding sites. Study designs for investigating raptor dispersal also should include analysis of environmental and social factors influencing dispersal, to improve our understanding of condition-dependent dispersal strategies. Finally, we propose a terminology for use in describing the variety of movements associated with dispersal behavior in raptors, and we suggest this terminology could be used consistently to facilitate comparisons among studies.


Originally published in Journal of Raptor Research 43(2):81-89. 2009 doi: 10.3356/JRR-08-33.1

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