Use of European hare (Lepus europaeus) carcasses by an avian scavenging assemblage in Patagonia


All correspondence A. Travaini at present address: Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral, Centro de Investigaciones de Puerto Deseado, Almirante Brown y Colón S/N, (9050) Puerto Deseado, Santa Cruz, Argentina.


We studied the use of European hare (Lepus europaeus) carcasses by avian scavengers in Argentinean Patagonia. A total of 16 hare carcasses were placed in locations that could be observed without disturbing birds feeding on them. Six avian species fed on these carcasses: chimango caracara (Milvago chimango), crested caracara (Polyborus plancus), black vulture (Coragyps atratus), grey eagle-buzzard (Geranoaetus melanoleucus), red-backed hawk (Buteo polyosoma) and cinereous harrier (Circus cinereus). Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), although abundant, never fed on the hare carcasses. The Andean condor also did not feed on the carcasses. Mammals visited hare carcasses on only two occasions. Of the hare carcasses, 69% were fully consumed during the first day of exposure and 25% in two days. There was no difference in the time elapsed from the placement of the carcass and its detection by crested and chimango caracaras. There were similar time periods from detection to first arrival, and time elapsed from first arrival to the start of feeding at the carcass by crested and chimango caracaras. Hare body parts were consumed in different proportions by crested and chimango caracaras whereas black vultures consumed the whole carcass. Interspecific hierarchies at the carcass in a decreasing sequence of dominance were crested caracara > black vulture > chimango caracara, coinciding with that expected from a body mass perspective. The scavenging species that consume hare carcasses did not show a clear pattern denoting they were a highly interdependent assemblage in the way described for scavengers in Africa.