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Feeding ecology of the long-eared owl (Asio otus) in northern Italy: is it a dietary specialist?

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Abstract:

The feeding ecology of the long-eared owl (Asio otus) in the Stupinigi Natural Park, northwestern Italy, was investigated for 1 year. Owls fed seasonally on three main prey categories. Mice (Murinae) constituted the bulk of the diet from September to March, with voles (Arvicolinae) and birds as secondary prey. During the breeding season, birds became preeminent, constituting about half of the prey ingested. Dietary overlap between the overwintering period and breeding season was low. Food-niche breadth was low in autumn and winter but increased markedly from May to August. A comparison of our results with those of eight other European studies showed that the long-eared owl in Italy has a more varied diet. The diet in Italy and Spain (southern Europe) is based on at least three prey groups and differs from that described for areas in central and northern Europe, where only species of voles are the main prey. Our results show that the long-eared owl is an adaptable predator that expands its food niche in the presence of diversified prey. This adaptability contrasts with the picture of a specialized predator.

L'écologie alimentaire du Hibou moyen-duc (Asio otus) a été étudiée pendant 1 an, dans le parc naturel de Stupinigi, dans le nord-ouest de l'Italie. Les hiboux se nourrissent de trois catégories de proies selon la saison. Les souris (Murinae) constituent la plus grande partie du régime alimentaire de septembre à mars, avec, comme proies secondaires, des campagnols (Arvicolinae) et des oiseaux. Durant la saison de la reproduction, les oiseaux prédominent, représentant à peu près la moitié des proies ingérées. Le chevauchement des régimes durant la période entre l'hiver et la saison de la reproduction est faible. L'envergure de la niche alimentaire est faible en automne et en hiver, mais augmente considérablement de mai à août. La comparaison de nos résultats à ceux de huit autres études européennes a démontré que le Hibou moyen-duc a un régime alimentaire plus varié en Italie. Le régime des hiboux en Italie et en Espagne (sud de l'Europe) se compose d'au moins trois groupes de proies et diffère du régime des hiboux du centre et du nord de l'Europe qui est dominé par des espèces de campagnols exclusivement. Nos résultats démontrent que le Hibou moyen-duc est un prédateur versatile qui peut augmenter l'envergure de sa niche alimentaire en présence de proies diversifiées. Cette faculté d'adaptation ne correspond pas à l'image que l'on se fait d'un prédateur spécialisé.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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