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Foraging habitat selection by breeding Common Kestrels Falco tinnunculus on lowland farmland in England

Lookup NU author(s): Claudia Garratt, Emeritus Professor Monica Hughes, Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD


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Capsule Breeding Common Kestrels prefer to forage over recently cut grass than all other habitat types on farmland. Aims To identify foraging habitat and prey of Common Kestrels during the breeding season. Methods We observed seven pairs of Common Kestrels during the breeding season over three years, using fixed vantage point observations. We recorded foraging attempts, and habitat and prey data for where the birds chose to forage. Compositional Analysis was used to establish use of each habitat category relative to that habitat's availability within the Kestrels' observed foraging ranges. Results We found that Kestrels select habitats non-randomly, with cut grass (<= 5cm, all cut less than two weeks previously) being the most used relative to availability. Prey taken varied with grass height: the ratio of mammals to invertebrates was greater on cut grass (4.36 mammals: 1 invertebrate) than on longer, uncut grass swards (1.73 mammals: 1 invertebrate). Conclusion Our results highlight the importance of areas of long and short grass in close juxtaposition, to provide conditions suitable for prey and access to them, respectively. The creation and maintenance of such small-scale habitat heterogeneity will be the key to maximizing the benefits of English agri-environment schemes for Common Kestrels.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Garratt CM, Hughes M, Eagle G, Fowler T, Grice PV, Whittingham MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Bird Study

Year: 2011

Volume: 58

Issue: 1

Pages: 90-98

Print publication date: 01/02/2011

ISSN (print): 0006-3657

ISSN (electronic): 1944-6705

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2010.526192


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