Dietary response of barn owls (Tyto alba) to large variations in Microtus arvalis and Arvicola terrestris prey populations

Abstract : The diet of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba (Scopoli, 1769)) was studied over an 8-year period in the Jura mountains of France, during two population surges of its main rodent prey (common voles (Microtus arvalis (Pallas, 1778)) and European water voles (Arvicola terrestris (L.,1758))), allowing us to test whether T. alba is an opportunistic predator as is often cited in the literature or exhibits more complex patterns of prey selection as is reported in arid environments. Small mammals were sampled by trapping and index methods. We observed (i) significant correlations between the proportions of A. terrestris and M. arvalis and woodland rodents in the diet and their respective densities in the field; (ii) interactions between populations of A. terrestris and M. arvalis, indicating that the proportion of each species in diet was affected by the density of the other; (iii) proportions of red-toothed shrews (genus Sorex (L., 1758)) in the diet did not correlate with their abundance in the field, indicating that those species were likely to be preyed upon when others were no longer available. This confirms that T. alba is generally opportunistic; however, prey selection of a focal species (e.g., Sorex spp., grassland species) can be affected by the density or availability of the other prey species
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Submitted on : Friday, January 29, 2010 - 7:54:45 PM
Last modification on : Friday, March 29, 2019 - 9:10:43 AM

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Nadine Bernard, Dominique Michelat, Francis Raoul, Jean-Pierre Quéré, Pierre Delattre, et al.. Dietary response of barn owls (Tyto alba) to large variations in Microtus arvalis and Arvicola terrestris prey populations. Canadian Journal of Zoology, NRC Research Press, 2010, 88 (4), pp.416-426. ⟨10.1139/Z10-011⟩. ⟨hal-00451728⟩

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