Behaviour-specific habitat selection patterns of breeding barn owls

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SÉCHAUD, Robin, Kim SCHALCHER, Ana Paula MACHADO, Bettina ALMASI, Carolina MASSA, Kamran SAFI, Alexandre ROULIN, 2021. Behaviour-specific habitat selection patterns of breeding barn owls. In: Movement Ecology. BioMed Central. 9(1), 18. eISSN 2051-3933. Available under: doi: 10.1186/s40462-021-00258-6

@article{Sechaud2021-04-21Behav-53605, title={Behaviour-specific habitat selection patterns of breeding barn owls}, year={2021}, doi={10.1186/s40462-021-00258-6}, number={1}, volume={9}, journal={Movement Ecology}, author={Séchaud, Robin and Schalcher, Kim and Machado, Ana Paula and Almasi, Bettina and Massa, Carolina and Safi, Kamran and Roulin, Alexandre}, note={Article Number: 18} }

Schalcher, Kim Attribution 4.0 International Almasi, Bettina Behaviour-specific habitat selection patterns of breeding barn owls 2021-04-21 Almasi, Bettina Roulin, Alexandre 2021-05-06T07:35:32Z eng Schalcher, Kim Machado, Ana Paula Séchaud, Robin Machado, Ana Paula 2021-05-06T07:35:32Z Safi, Kamran Massa, Carolina Roulin, Alexandre Background<br />The intensification of agricultural practices over the twentieth century led to a cascade of detrimental effects on ecosystems. In Europe, agri-environment schemes (AES) have since been adopted to counter the decrease in farmland biodiversity, with the promotion of extensive habitats such as wildflower strips and extensive meadows. Despite having beneficial effects documented for multiple taxa, their profitability for top farmland predators, like raptors, is still debated. Such species with high movement capabilities have large home ranges with fluctuation in habitat use depending on specific needs.<br /><br />Methods<br />Using GPS devices, we recorded positions for 134 barn owls (Tyto alba) breeding in Swiss farmland and distinguished three main behavioural modes with the Expectation-Maximization binary Clustering (EMbC) method: perching, hunting and commuting. We described barn owl habitat use at different levels during the breeding season by combining step and path selection functions. In particular, we examined the association between behavioural modes and habitat type, with special consideration for AES habitat structures.<br /><br />Results<br />Despite a preference for the most common habitats at the home range level, behaviour-specific analyses revealed more specific habitat use depending on the behavioural mode. During the day, owls roosted almost exclusively in buildings, while pastures, meadows and forest edges were preferred as nocturnal perching sites. For hunting, barn owls preferentially used AES habitat structures though without neglecting more intensively exploited areas. For commuting, open habitats were preferred over wooded areas.<br /><br />Conclusions<br />The behaviour-specific approach used here provides a comprehensive breakdown of barn owl habitat selection during the reproductive season and highlights its importance to understand complex animal habitat preferences. Our results highlight the importance of AES in restoring and maintaining functional trophic chains in farmland. Safi, Kamran Séchaud, Robin Massa, Carolina

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