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Puerto Rico plain pigeon, scaly-naped pigeon and red-tailed hawk: population dynamics and association patterns before and after hurricanes

Frank F. Rivera-Milán*, Alexis J. Martínez, Antonio Matos, David Guzmán, Carlos R. Ruiz-Lebrón, Eduardo A. Ventosa-Febles, Hilda Diaz-Soltero

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Since the 1980s, 3 major hurricanes have made landfall on Puerto Rico: Hugo in September 1989 (Saffir-Simpson scale, category 4), Georges in September 1998 (category 3), and María in September 2017 (category 4). María has been the most devastating hurricane since 1899−1932. Major hurricanes can cause severe abundance declines and population bottlenecks by decreasing demographic rates and increasing predation and competition for limited resources. In April to June 1986−2021, we used distance sampling to estimate abundance and monitor the population dynamics of the endangered Puerto Rico plain pigeon Patagioenas inornata wetmorei and the abundant scaly-naped pigeon P. squamosa and red-tailed hawk Buteo jamaicensis. Here, we fit a Bayesian state-space logistic model with distance sampling abundance estimates to generate posterior estimates of maximum population growth rate and population carrying capacity, and predict abundance in April to June 2020−2030. In addition, we used N-mixture and two-species models to assess association patterns in April to June 2015−2019. The scaly-naped pigeon and red-tailed hawk populations did not decline or recovered faster from their declines than the plain pigeon population after the hurricanes. The association patterns were positive but variable for the two pigeon species and negative but variable for the plain pigeon and red-tailed hawk. At lowered abundance (i.e. mean estimates  EMBED Equation.DSMT4  = 1043, SE = 476 island-wide and  EMBED Equation.DSMT4  = 522, SE = 157 at the centre of abundance in the east-central region in April to June 2018−2021), the plain pigeon may become extinct if another hurricane with the path and intensity of María makes landfall on the island during the current decade.