Investigating the relationship between the prey composition of Barn Owls (Tyto alba) and the habitat structure of their hunting range in the Marcal Basin (Hungary), based on pellet analysis

Open access

Abstract

Little was known about the small mammal fauna of the Marcal Basin to date, therefore we collected 1,144 Barn Owl pellets from 15 locations in 2017. After the analysis of the pellets, remnants of 3,063 prey items were identified, of which 97.5% were small mammals, belonging to 21 species, while the remaining 2.5% were birds, frogs and insects. Mammal prey items consisted of Cricetidae 41%, Muridae 31% and Soricidae 28%, and in some samples, we found the remnants of European Mole (Talpa europaea), Kuhl’s Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii), Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) and Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). Small mammal species were classified into four functional groups based on their preferences for urban, open, forest or wetland habitats. We investigated whether their relative abundances match with the proportions of the four habitat types in the assumed Barn Owl hunting ranges (cca. 2 km radius circle) in five sample sites. The relative abundance of small mammal species preferring urban habitats showed concordance with the proportion of the appropriate habitat types in the hunting area in two samples, while such concordance was proved for species favouring open, forest and wetland habitats just in one out of five samples. Small mammal functional groups represented in the prey composition do not directly correspond to the proportion of their typical habitats. We conclude that the abundance of various prey types is not suitable for characterising the landscape within the Barn Owl’s hunting range.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Arlettaz R. Krähenbühl M. Almasi B. Roulin A. & Schaub M. 2010. Wildflower areas within revitalized agricultural matrices boost small mammal populations but not breeding Barn Owls. – Journal of Ornithology 151: 553–564. DOI: 10.1007/s10336-009-0485-0

  • Askew N. P. Searle J. B. & Moore N. P. 2007. Prey selection in a Barn Owl Tyto alba. – Bird Study 54: 130–132. DOI: 10.1080/00063650709461465

  • Bihari Z. Csorba G. & Heltai M. (eds.) 2007. Magyarország emlőseinek atlasza [Atlas of mammals in Hungary]. – Kossuth Kiadó Budapest (in Hungarian with English Summary)

  • Bond G. Burnside N. G. Metcalfe D. J. Scott D. M. & Blamire J. 2004. The effects of land-use and landscape structure on Barn Owl (Tyto alba) breeding success in southern England U.K. – Landscape Ecology 20: 555–566. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-004-5037-7

  • Cooke D. Nagle A. Smiddy P. Fairley J. & Muircheartaigh I. 1996. The diet of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in County Cork in relation to land use. – Biology & Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 96B(2): 97–111.

  • de la Peña N. M Butet A. Delettre Y. Paillat G. Morant P. Le Du L. & Burel F. 2003. Response of the small mammal community to changes in western French agricultural landscapes. – Landscape Ecology 18(3): 265–278. DOI: 10.1023/A:1024452930326

  • Dövényi Z. Ambrózy P. Juhász Á. Marosi S. Mezősi G. Michalkó G. Somogyi S. Szalai Z. & Tiner T. 2010. Magyarország kistájainak katasztere [Inventory of microregions in Hungary]. – HAS Geographical Research Institute Budapest (in Hungarian)

  • Fehér Cs. E. 2007. Fehérszélű törpedenevér Pipistrellus kuhlii (Kuhl 1819) [Nathusius’ Bat Pipistrellus kuhlii (Kuhl 1819)]. – In: Bihari Z. Csorba G. & Heltai M. (eds.) Magyarország emlőseinek atlasza [Atlas of mammals in Hungary]. – Kossuth Kiadó Budapest pp. 83–84. (in Hungarian with English Summary)

  • Fehér E. & Fehér Cs. E. 2004. A gyöngybagoly (Tyto alba) táplálékösszetételének éven belüli változása [Seasonal changes in the diet of Barn Owl (Tyto alba)]. – Aquila 111: 81–87. (in Hungarian with English Summary)

  • Feranec J. Soukup T. Čižmár J. Šafár J. & Kontra P. 2015. CORINE land cover map of Europe. – Cartographic Letters 23: 21–28.

  • Hammer Ø. Harper D. A. T. & Ryan P. D. 2001. PAST: Paleontological statistics software package for education and data analysis. – Paleontologia Electronica 4: 1–9.

  • Heisler L. M. Somers C. M. & Poulin R. G. 2016. Owl pellets: a more effective alternative to conventional trapping for broad-scale studies of small mammal communities. – Methods in Ecology and Evolution 7(1): 96–103. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12454

  • Horváth A. Morvai A. & Horváth G. F. 2018. Food-niche pattern of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in intensively cultivated agricultural landscape. – Ornis Hungarica 26(1): 27–40. DOI: 10.1515/orhu-2018-0002

  • Kessler J. 2015. Osteological guide of songbirds from Central Europe. – Ornis Hungarica 23(2): 62–155. DOI: 10.1515/orhu-2015-0016

  • Kryštufek B. & Janžekovič F. (eds.) 1999. Ključ za določanje vretenčarjev Slovenije [Key for identification of vertebrates in Slovenia]. – DZS Lubljana (in Slovenian)

  • Latková H. 2008. Seasonal changes in food composition of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in the northern part of the “Záhorie” region. – Slovak Raptor Journal 2: 107–112. DOI: 10.2478/v10262-012-0024-4

  • Lázár P. 1983. Adatok Sümeg környéke apróemlősfaunájához bagoly-köpetvizsgálatok alapján [Data on small mammals fauna based on owl pellets analysis in the Sümeg surroundings]. – Folia Musei Historico-Naturalis Bakonyiensis 2: 217–228. (in Hungarian with German Summary)

  • Lovari S. Renzoni A. & Fondi R. 1976. The predatory habits of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba Scopoli) in relation to the vegetation cover. – Bolletino di Zoologia 43(1–2): 173–191. DOI: 10.1080/11250007609434894

  • Lyman R. L. 2012. Rodent-prey content in long-term samples of Barn Owl (Tyto alba) pellets from the northwestern United States reflects local agricultural change. – The American Midland Naturalist 167(1): 150–163. DOI: 10.1674/0003-0031-167.1.150

  • Martinez J. A. & Zuberogoitia I. 2004. Habitat preferences and causes of population decline for Barn Owls Tyto alba: a multi-scale approach. – Ardeola 51(2): 303–317.

  • März R. 2011. Gewöll- und Rupfungskunde [The science of pellets and pluck]. – Aula-Verlag Wiebelsheim (in German)

  • Mayes W. M. Burke I. T. Gomes H. I. Anton Á. D. Molnár M. Feigl V. & Ujacki É. 2016. Advances in understanding environmental risks of red mud after the Ajka Spill Hungary. – Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy 2: 332–343. DOI: 10.1007/s40831-016-0050-z

  • Meek W. R. Burman P. J. Sparks R. H. Nowakowski M. & Burman N. J. 2012. The use of Barn Owl Tyto alba pellets to assess population change in small mammals. – Bird Study 59(2): 166–174. DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2012.656076

  • Mesterházy A. 2008. Marcal-medence [Marcal Basin]. – In: Király G. Molnár Zs. Bölöni J. Csiky J. & Vojtkó A. (eds.) 2008. Magyarország földrajzi kistájainak növényzete [Vegetation of geographical microregions in Hungary]. – MTA ÖBKI Vácrátót pp. 85–87. (in Hungarian)

  • Mikkola H. 1983. Owls of Europe. – T & AD Poyser Calton

  • Moysi M. Christou M. Goutner V. Kassinis N. & Iezekiel S. 2018. Spatial and temporal patterns in the diet of Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in Cyprus. – Journal of Biological Research - Thessaloniki 25: 9. DOI: 10.1186/s40709-018-0080-8

  • Paunović M. 1990. Vodozemci iz prošlosti i sadašnjosti: određivanje skeletnih dijelova [Amphibians from past and present: determination of skeletal parts]. – Mala znanstvena knjižnica Hrvatsko Prirodoslovno Društvo Zagreb (in Croatian)

  • Purger J. J. & Reider M. 1998. Celldömölk környékének kisemlősfaunája gyöngybagoly-köpetek vizsgálata alapján [Small mammal fauna of the Celldömölk surroundings obtained by Barn Owl pellet analysis]. – Természetvédelmi Közlemények 7: 135–140. (in Hungarian with English Summary)

  • QGIS (Quantum GIS Development Team) 2013. Quantum GIS Geographic Information System. – Open Source Geospatial Foundation Project. Version 2.12 – retrieved from http://www.qgis.org/.

  • Rodríguez C. & Peris S. J. 2007. Habitat associations of small mammals in farmed landscapes: implications for agri-environmental schemes. – Animal Biology 57(3): 301–314. DOI: 10.1163/157075607781753092

  • Schmidt E. 1967. Bagolyköpetvizsgálatok [Owl pellet analyses]. – Magyar Madártani Intézet Budapest (in Hungarian)

  • Schmidt E. 1976. Kleinsäugerfaunistische Daten aus Eulengewöllen in Ungarn [Small mammal data from Barn Owl pellets in Hungary]. – Aquila 82: 119–144. (in German)

  • Schmidt E. 1979. Adatok Vas megye kisemlős faunájához baglyok táplálékvizsgálata alapján [Data to the knowledge of small mammal fauna of Vas County based on the diet analysis of owls]. – Savaria A Vas Megyei Múzeumok Értesítője 7–8: 71–77.

  • Szép D. & Purger J. J. 2013. Óhid és Kisgörbő környékének (Zala megye) kisemlős faunája gyöngybagoly (Tyto alba) köpetek vizsgálata alapján [Small mammal fauna of the surroundings of Óhíd and Kisgörbő (Zala County Hungary) based on Barn Owl (Tyto alba) pellet analysis]. – Folia Musei Historico-Naturalis Bakonyiensis 30: 147–152. (in Hungarian with English Summary)

  • Taylor I. 1994. Barn Owls: Predator-Prey Relationships and Conservation. – Cambridge University Press Cambridge UK.

  • Tores M. Motro Y. Motro U. & Yom-Tov Y. 2005. The Barn Owl – a selective opportunist predator. – Israel Journal of Zoology 51(4): 349–360. DOI: 10.1560/7862-9E5G-RQJJ-15BE

  • Torre I. Arrizabalaga A. & Flaquer C. 2004. Three methods for assessing richness and composition of small mammal communities. – Journal of Mammalogy 85(3): 524–530. DOI: 10.1644/BJK-112

  • Torre I. Gracia-Quintas L. Arrizabalaga A. Baucells J. & Mario D. 2015. Are recent changes in the terrestrial small mammal communities related to land use change? A test using pellet analyses. – Ecological Research 30(5): 813–819. DOI: 10.1007/s11284-015-1279-x

  • Tvrtković N. 1979. Razlikovanje i određivanje morfološki sličnih vrsta podroda Sylvaemus Ognev & Vorobiev 1923. (Rodentia Mammalia) [Distinguishing and determination of the morphologically similar species of subgenus Sylvaemus Ognev et Vorobiev 1923 (Rodentia Mammalia)]. – Rad JAZU 383: 155–186. (in Croatian with German Summary)

  • Tvrtković N. Đulić B. & Mrakovčić M. 1980. Distribution species characters and variability of the Southern Water-shrew Neomys anomalus Cabrera 1907 (Insectivora Mammalia) in Croatia. – Biosistematika 6(2): 187–201.

  • Ujhelyi P. 1989. A magyarországi vadonélő emlősállatok határozója (küllemi és csonttani bélyegek alapján) [Key for identification of wild mammals of Hungary (on the base of habitus and features of sceleton)]. – A Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület (MME) Könyvtára 1. Budapest (in Hungarian)

  • Uzinger N. Anton Á. D. Ötvös K. Tamás P. & Anton A. 2015. Results of the clean-up operation to reduce pollution on flooded agricultural fields after the red mud spill in Hungary. – Environmental Science and Pollution Research 22: 1–9.

  • Varga L. 1986. Adatok a gyöngybagoly táplálkozásához [Data to the knowledge of diet of Barn Owl]. – Vasi Madártani Értesítő 1: 8.

  • Varga L. 1991. Adatok néhány gerinces (Vertebrata) állatfaj Vas megyei elterjedéséhez [Data to the distribution of several vertebrate (Vertebrata) species in Vas County]. – Vasi Szemle 45(1): 7–14.

  • Yom-Tov Y. & Wool D. 1997. Do the contents of Barn Owl pellets accurately represent the proportion of prey species in the field? – The Condor 99(4): 972–976. DOI: 10.2307/1370149

Search
Journal information
Metrics
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 75 75 18
PDF Downloads 47 47 17