Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) occupy intensively managed agricultural areas within the Imperial Valley of California, where they occur at high densities relative to other areas in the state, and yet reproductive rates are often low. Understanding diet and food-niche breadth may lead to insights into factors contributing to their poor reproductive performance. We tested the relative contribution of sex, year, and season on diet composition and food-niche breadth from analyses of stomach contents of adult Burrowing Owls (n = 53). Orthoptera dominated the diet; it accounted for 58.9% of the total number of prey items in all stomachs and was found in 98.2% of all samples. Rodents, a source of potentially limiting dietary calcium, were found in only 2 stomachs. We detected yearly and seasonal effects on estimated food-niche breadth. Mean food niche for the breeding season was broader (antilog of Shannons index: 2.38 Â± 0.15) and more even (Pielous index: 0.67 Â± 0.06) than for the nonbreeding season (1.83 Â± 0.13, 0.49 Â± 0.07, respectively) partially because of a greater frequency of Araneida, Isopoda, Lepidoptera, and Solpugida in the diet during the breeding season. Mean food-niche breadth for 1997 (2.25 Â± 0.23) was broader than during 1994, 1995, and 1996 (2.07 Â± 0.23, 1.98 Â± 0.20, and 1.82 Â± 0.40, respectively) because of a greater frequency of Araneida, Dermaptera, Isopoda, Lepidoptera, and Solpugida. These results, and auxiliary diet information, suggest rodents were infrequent in the diet of Burrowing Owls in the Imperial Valley and may help explain their lower reproductive success relative to other areas of California.
York, Melissa M.; Rosenberg, Daniel K.; and Sturm, Ken K.
"Diet and food-niche breadth of Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) in the Imperial Valley, California,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 62
, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol62/iss3/3