Ornis Hungarica. vol.25(2). (2017) p.34-50.
Food composition of the Little Owl (Athene noctua) in a farmland area of Central Hungary, with particular attention to arthropod diversity
The feeding of Little Owl (Athene noctua) was studied in a farmland area of Kiskunság, Central Hungary. For the analyses, a total of 661 Little Owl pellets were collected between February and September 2005 from three locations, corresponding known Little Owl territories situated nearby the settlements Apaj, Kunpeszér and Ladánybene. The aim of the present study was to explore the diet composition of Little Owl and to give a detailed evaluation of the arthropod diversity based on the pellet analysis. The identified prey items represented 15 vertebrate and 39 invertebrate species/taxa. In terms of prey number, dominance of small mammals was observed in two sites (Apaj – 55%, Kunpeszér – 68%), while birds and mammals shared almost equal dominance (~25%) in Ladánybene. The most numerous mammal species was the Common Vole (Microtus arvalis), while the Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) played key role among the birds. Contribution of amphibian Common Spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus) was considerable, while share of reptiles was marginal. Vertebrates also played a predominant role by contributing over 99% of the overall prey biomass in all study sites. Invertebrate prey dominance ranged from 24.8–30.0% while their contribution to the overall biomass was very low (0.14–0.34%). Large sized beetles (Pentodon idiota, Melolontha hippocastani) and orthopterans (Tettigonia viridissima, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) were preferred. Arthropod species richness and diversity were the highest in Kunpeszér, supposedly owing to the rich mosaic habitat structure.