Gyr falcons, ptarmigan and microtine rodents in Northern Sweden
2005 (English)In: Ibis, ISSN 0019-1019, E-ISSN 1474-919X, Vol. 147, no 3, 587-597 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
A Gyr Falcon Falco rusticolus population in Northern Sweden (66°N, 17°E) was monitored from 1996 to 2002 in relation to its predator–prey interactions with its main and alternative prey species. Ptarmigan species Lagopus spp., and especially Rock Ptarmigan L. mutus, were the Gyr Falcons’ most important prey and constituted more than 90% of the prey biomass. A 21-fold difference in ptarmigan abundance was found across Falcon breeding territories. However, this great variation in prey availability corresponded to only about a 10% shift in Gyr Falcon diet across territories, suggesting that the Falcons were reluctant or unable to compensate for declining ptarmigan availability by using alternative prey categories. Gyr Falcons did not respond functionally to microtine rodent abundance. Their diets were unaffected by a peak in the microtine rodent population cycle when Norwegian Lemmings Lemmus lemmus occurred in high numbers in the study area. Gyr Falcons responded numerically to their prey in two ways. First, there was a reproductive response with a significant relationship between the number of chicks fledged and the number of ptarmigan in the breeding territories. Secondly, although the Gyr Falcons did not utilize microtines as prey, there was a relationship between the microtine rodent abundance and the number of pairs that attempted to breed each year. This could be a result of an indirect community interaction, assuming that other predators switched from ptarmigan to microtines as prey, which could have had a positive effect on the breeding performance of the Gyr Falcons. The Gyr Falcons acted as true specialist predators, and their narrow food niche probably reflected a general lack of suitable alternative prey in the study area.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 147, no 3, 587-597 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-23376DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-919x.2005.00436.xOAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-23376DiVA: diva2:191637