Habitat, breeding performance, diet and individual age in Swiss Barn Owls ( Tyto alba )

Frey, Caroline ; Sonnay, Caroline ; Dreiss, Amélie ; Roulin, Alexandre

In: Journal of Ornithology, 2011, vol. 152, no. 2, p. 279-290

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    Intensification of farming over the past 50years has homogenised the landscape structure and contributed to the decline of bird populations in Europe. To better target the conservation of the Barn Owl Tyto alba, we assessed the influence of the landscape structure on breeding performance in western Switzerland. The analyses considered a 23-year dataset of breeding parameters collected in an area dominated by intensive agriculture. Using a Geographic Information System approach, landscape characteristics were described around 194 nest sites. Our analyses showed that nest-box occupancy, laying date, clutch and brood size, egg volume and probability of producing a second annual clutch were not significantly associated with any of the eight principal landscape variables (agricultural land, woodland, urban area, hedgerows, cereals, sugar beet, maize and meadow). Nevertheless, the probability that a breeding pair occupied a nest-box decreased the more roads there were surrounding the nest-box. The absence of strong associations between habitat features and breeding parameters suggests that prey availability may be relatively similar between the different breeding sites. In our study area, Barn Owls can always find suitable foraging habitats around most nest-boxes