Scientific Journal of the BirdLife Hungary

A Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület tudományos folyóirata

Ornis Hungarica. vol.31(2). (2023) p.192-202.

What is the size of the Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba) hunting range in a mosaic landscape?
Dávid Szép & Jenő J. Purger

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Western Barn Owls hunt primarily small mammals in open areas, but they also hunt in urban, forest and wetland habitats. The landscape structure of their hunting range, therefore, affects the composition of their prey, knowledge of which can be a good starting point for estimating the size of their hunting range. Our goal was to estimate whether owls catch most of their prey within a circle with radius of 1, 2, 3, 4 or even 5 kilometres. In this study, we used five pellet samples of different size, collected between 2015 and 2019 from a settlement near the Drava River (Péterhida, Hungary). Our results showed that the annual distribution, diversity, and evenness of small mammal species detected from the samples was similar regardless of the sample size. The distribution of small mammal functional groups preferring urban, open, forest and wetland habitats was also similar. For this reason, the pellet samples were merged. Our results suggest that Western Barn Owls catch a significant part of their prey within a circle of 2-kilometre radius around its breeding or roosting site in the landscape, which consists of patches of habitat with a mosaic distribution. In a hunting range of this size, the proportion of small mammal functional groups preferring different habitats obtained from the pellets overlapped with the proportion of their preferred habitats.