Seasonal habitat-dependent change in nest box occupation by Tengmalm’s owl associated with a corresponding change in nest predation
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We investigated the nest-site settlement of the forest-dwelling Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus) in the temperate zone of Central Europe (Czech Republic) over a 14-year period. We analysed the effect of changes in nest-site suitability (expressed as the proportion of deciduous forest) within the immediate surroundings of the nest boxes (a buffer radius of 25 m) in relation to nest box occupancy, the mean standardized laying date (further the laying date), occurrence of nest predation, and breeding density. In line with the predictions of the site dependence model, we found a positive relationship between the laying date and the proportion of deciduous trees in the nest box surrounding. Further, we found the interactive effect of the laying date and the proportion of deciduous forest surrounding a nest box on the occurrence of breeding attempts predated by pine martens. A higher proportion of deciduous forest was found in the surroundings of predated than non-predated breeding attempts, and a steeper positive relationship between the laying date and the proportion of deciduous forest was found in the surroundings of non-predated than predated breeding attempts. The change in the owls’ habitat utilization can be explained by the process of tree leafing which makes the deciduous forest a less suitable habitat with high risk of nest predation before tree foliage and a more suitable habitat with low risk of nest predation after tree foliage. We conclude that our results are in agreement with the site dependence model, and that the degree of foliage of deciduous forest in the nest surrounding of Tengmalm’s owl is a key factor determining site suitability due to predation risk from pine martens in Central Europe.
KeywordsAegolius funereus Anti-predation strategy Habitat selection Laying date Temperate area Tree foliage
Many thanks are due to J. Zárybnický for the GIS analyses. We also thank G. A. Sonerud and D. Serrano for valuable comments on the early draft of the manuscript. This study was supported by the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CIGA Grant No. 20144203), Faculty of Environmental Sciences, the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (IGA Grant No. 20164215), and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (Grant No. EHP-CZ02-OV-1-024-2015).
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