Connection between prey composition and the landscape structure in the hunting area of Barn Owl’s (Tyto alba) in Baranja (Croatia)
Background and purpose: The assumption that the species composition and the relative abundance of small mammals in pellets of Barn Owls reflects the landscape structure of the hunting area is tested, based on habitat preferences of small mammals identified from pellets collected in the hilly and lowland parts of Baranja county (Croatia).
Materials and methods: During 2007 we collected 2395 whole pellets and their fragments in 21 localities, from which 6613 prey remains were identified as belonging to small mammals (99.5%) of 23 species. The correlation between the relative abundance of mammal species and landscape structures (habitat types and landscape features) was tested.
Results: There was a significant correlation between the relative abundance of seven small mammal species and the proportion of particular landscape structure classes. The number of small mammal species showed a negative correlation with the area of inland marshes. The evenness of the small mammal fauna grew with the mosaicity of landscape and the length of the borders in the owl’s hunting area. In the total prey the Common Vole (Microtus arvalis) dominated with more than 62%, which indicates its population outbreak. The diversity and evenness of small mammals in the hilly and lowland regions did not differ.
Conclusions: We found significant correlations between the relative abundance of some small mammal species and the landscape structure classes in the owls’ hunting area. Our results suggested that the diversity of small mammals increases as the mosaic of the landscape increases, while the degree of population outbreak of the Common Vole decreases. These relationships should be taken into consideration when designing landscapes or changing land use.
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