Present address: Subdirección Gral. Conservación de la Biodiversidad, Dirección General para la Biodiversidad, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Equipo Técnico Red Natura 2000, C/Isabel Tintero, 3. Local 2°Bis, 28005 Madrid, Spain.
Food-niche differentiation in sympatric Hen Circus cyaneus and Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus
Article first published online: 16 DEC 2004
Volume 147, Issue 1, pages 144–154, January 2005
How to Cite
GARCIA, J. T. and ARROYO, B. E. (2005), Food-niche differentiation in sympatric Hen Circus cyaneus and Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus. Ibis, 147: 144–154. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919x.2004.00377.x
- Issue published online: 16 DEC 2004
- Article first published online: 16 DEC 2004
- Received 26 March 2003; revision accepted 6 August 2004.
Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus and Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus are medium-sized raptors that differ in size (Hen Harrier being slightly bigger than Montagu's Harrier) and breeding system (Montagu's Harriers are semi-colonial and Hen Harriers defend nesting–hunting territories). In contrast, the diets of the two species when in sympatry are very similar. We evaluated food-niche differentiation among these coexisting raptor species and how between-species differences in body size and social system influence interspecific relationships. We present data from a study conducted in 1997 and 1998 in northeastern Madrid province (central Spain). Diet of the two species largely overlapped (55–95%) during the breeding season, but Hen Harriers preyed more often on larger species. This segregation was observed both in the average size of the primary prey (lagomorphs) and in the alternative prey (birds for Hen Harriers vs. insects for Montagu's Harriers), and was particularly apparent late in the season. Accordingly, feeding frequency of Montagu's Harriers, but not of Hen Harriers, increased later in the season. Size differences between species in prey brought to the nest were apparent for both males and females. Foraging behaviour also differed, as Hen Harriers spent more time hunting close to the nest than did Montagu's Harriers. This implies that segregation in foraging areas may also exist. Observed niche partitioning may relax the potential for competition between these species.