Reproductive performance of peregrine falcons relative to the use of organochlorine pesticides, 1946–2021

Oli, Madan K.; Smith, George D.; McGrady, Michael J.; Chaudhary, Vratika; Rollie, Chris J.; Mearns, Richard; Newton, Ian ORCID:; Lambin, Xavier. 2023 Reproductive performance of peregrine falcons relative to the use of organochlorine pesticides, 1946–2021. Journal of Animal Ecology, 92 (11). 2201-2213.

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•1. Populations of some fish- and meat-eating birds suffered dramatic declines globally following the introduction of organochlorine pesticides during the late 1940s and 1950s. It has been hypothesised that these population declines during the 1950s–1970s were largely driven by a combination of reproductive failure due to eggshell-thinning, egg breakage and embryonic death attributable to DDT and its metabolites, and to enhanced mortality attributable to the more toxic cyclodiene compounds such as aldrin and dieldrin. •2. Using 75 years (1946–2021) of Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) monitoring data (315 unique nest-sites monitored for 6110 nest-years), we studied the breeding performance of a resident Peregrine population in southern Scotland relative to the spatiotemporal pattern of organochlorine pesticide use. •3. We show that (i) Peregrine breeding success and measures of breeding performance increased substantially following the reduction in, and subsequently a complete ban on, the use of organochlorine pesticides; (ii) improvements in Peregrine breeding performance were more dramatic in southeastern Scotland where agriculture was the predominant land use than in southwestern Scotland where there was less arable and more forested land; (iii) Peregrines nesting closer to the coast generally had higher fledging success (that is, a higher proportion of clutches that produced at least one fledgeling) than those nesting inland farther away from the coast; (iv) low temperatures and excessive rain in May negatively affected Peregrine fledging success; and (v) Peregrine abundance increased in parallel with improvements in reproductive performance following the reduction and then complete ban on the use of organochlorine pesticides in the UK. However, recovery was gradual and occurred over four decades, and rate of recovery varied among measures of reproductive performance (egg, nestling and fledgeling production). •4. Our results suggest that the temporal pattern of organochlorine pesticide use strongly influenced Peregrine reproductive parameters but that the pattern of influence differed regionally. Overall results are consistent with the hypothesis that reproductive failure caused by organochlorine pesticides was an important driver of the decline in the south Scottish Peregrine population, and that improvements in all measures of breeding performance following a reduction and eventual ban on organochlorine use facilitated the observed increase in this population.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0021-8790
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: brood size, clutch size, DDT, Falco peregrinus, fledging success, hatching success, long-term population monitoring, organochlorine pesticide
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 09 Nov 2023 14:55 +0 (UTC)

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