Ornis Hungarica. vol.23(1). (2015) p.48-57.
Orthopteran insects as potential and preferred preys of the Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) in Hungary
Orthopterans play an important role in Red-footed Falcon diet, however, most studies focus only on its qualitative food composition, and less on quantitative composition and preferences of the taxa identified as prey. During the present research, an extensive orthopterological investigation was carried out in the Red-footed Falcon study area, Vásárhelyi Plain (SE-Hungary) between 2006 and 2008. Grasshoppers were sampled in their main habitats by sweep netting and pitfall trapping, and orthopterans were identified in the food remnants collected from the nests, both artificial and natural ones. 26 species were detected during the field works, 18 species from the food remnants. Altogether 32 species were identified. Prey preference values for all species for each year were calculated. More than two thirds of the identified preys were Decticus verrucivorus, and nearly 20% were Tettigonia viridissima. Other common prey species were Melanogryllus desertus, Platycleis affinis, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa, Calliptamus italicus and Gryllus campestris. Based on the prey preference analysis, the most preferred species was Decticus verrucivorus with extreme high values, and the other preferred ones, overlapping with the previous list, were Platycleis affinis, Bicolorana bicolor, Tettigonia viridissima, Calliptamus italicus and Roeseliana roeselii. These results may help in the development of Red-footed Falcon-friendly habitats through the application of habitat management favourable for the preferred prey species.