Advantage of specialism: reproductive output is related to prey choice in a small raptor

Andreas Otterbeck, Andreas Lindén, Eric Roualet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Predatory species’ usage of different prey types is affected by both prey availability and selectivity. The diet during the breeding season may affect the reproductive success of individual pairs. We studied the prey use of a small reversed size-dimorphic raptor, the Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, with respect to prey weight on two organizational levels. Using 13 years of data from southern Norway, we related reproductive output of individual breeding events to prey size taken. Further, we assessed the regional variation in prey usage between five Fennoscandian populations. This was done by fitting optimum-type functions to the prey species’ numbers or relative predation risks. Pairs that successfully completed the season with more fledglings displayed less variation in prey size, suggesting a possible adaptive benefit of diet specialism, or possibly a correlative effect due to higher prey availability or lower female hunting effort. This finding contrasts with earlier raptor studies, which have suggested benefits of dietary (and hence nutritional) diversity. Indeed, our results might be limited to nutritionally substitutable prey items. We also found a tendency suggesting that older females raised more fledglings than 1-year-old females. In the population-level analysis, we found that optimum-type functions with constant width and spatially variable average best described the relationship between relative predation risk and log weight. This can reflect local conditions, such as prey availability. Our findings and new methodological tools could apply to a broader spectrum of predators. They also highlight the role of viewing usage or choice of prey at several spatial scales.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)129–137
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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