Foraging behaviour of dormice Muscardinus avellanarius in two contrasting habitats.



Anatomical evidence suggests that the dormourse is a specialist feeder. Radio-tracking and direct observation confirm this, highly selective, arboreal feeding behaviour. Dormice choose flowers and fruits from a series of trees and shrubs as each becomes seasonally available. Deferred breeding and a high incidence of diurnal torper suggest that dormice experience food shortage in spring. In early summer, when flowering has ended, but fruits are not yet ripe, dormice may again suffer food shortage. At this time they appear to supplement their diet by taking insects, another high-quality food with cyclic availability. Although some tree species are particularly valuable to dormice, they may not be essential if alternatives exist. A spectrum of species which will ensure a continuum of differeing food supplies, within a small area, is essential. This im;plies a need for heterogeneous woodland structure. The implications for conversation management are discussed.