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Title: The breeding ecology of the little owl in nest boxes in England
Author: Joáchim, Emily Zsusi Kate
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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Identification of factors that could influence where raptors are found breeding and their breeding performance is an integral part of ecological research. Presently, no studies have explored the effect of diet, weather, habitat or predators on nest site occupancy or breeding performance in little owls Athene noctua in England. This thesis describes the development of a video-based system for recording prey provisioning by little owls in boxes; investigates the role of habitat on breeding site occupancy; explores the influence of weather and habitat on breeding success in two study populations; and the effect of predators on nest box occupancy. The breeding and occupancy data were generated via established nest box projects located in Wiltshire (southern England) and Lancashire (north-west England). The video-based monitoring system recorded the delivery of soft- and hard-bodied prey items by parent birds to their offspring in nest boxes. The advantages of this system were low cost, portability and motion-triggered, infrared lit recording. Little owls were more likely to occupy a box surrounded by less woodland habitat and more grassland habitat in Wiltshire. Heavy precipitation in March delayed breeding in Lancashire, whilst the number of February wet days initially advanced egg laying in Wiltshire, but breeding was progressively delayed if they exceeded ten days. Early breeders were more likely to raise more young and there was no evidence that habitat or post-hatching weather influenced breeding success. In Wiltshire, at low box densities, there was a predominantly negative relationship between predator proximity and box occupancy, whilst at high box densities, there was an increasing probability of box occupancy when predators were further away. A box was more likely to be re-occupied in year t+ 1 if the breeding attempt in year t was successful and the nearest predator was further away. Together, these results demonstrate how weather, habitat and potential predators can influence breeding site occupancy and/or breeding success in little owls and that the effects may differ at the population level. The video-based monitoring system could be used to explore the influence of prey provisioning behaviours and nestling diet on little owl breeding success in future studies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available