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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Habitat displacement effect between two competing owl species in fragmented forests

Kajtoch, Łukasz; Zmihorski, Michal; Wieczorek, Paweł


Many owl species use the same nesting and food resources, which causes strong interspecific competition and spatio-temporal niche separation. We made use of a recent colonisation of Ural Owls (Strix uralensis) in southern Poland to compare habitat preferences of Tawny Owls (Strix aluco) allopatry and sympatry with Ural Owls. We investigated spatial niche segregation of Ural Owl and the Tawny Owl in sympatry and compared habitat preferences of Tawny Owls breeding in allopatry and sympatry. Tawny Owls breeding in sympatry with Ural Owls occupied forests with higher canopy compactness, sites located closer to forest border and to built-up areas, as well as stands with a higher share of fir and spruce and a lower share of beech as compared to sites occupied by Ural Owls. Allopatric Tawny Owls occupied sites with lower canopy compactness and bred at sites located further from forest borders and in stands with lower share of fir and spruce and a higher share of deciduous as compared to sympatric Tawny Owls. As Ural owls are dominant in relation to Tawny Owls, this indicates that the presence of Ural Owls prevents Tawny Owls from occupying deciduous-dominated and old stands located in forest interior areas, far from buildings and forest edges. The results support habitat displacement between the two species when breeding in sympatry. We also show that protection of large forest patches is crucial for the Ural Owl, a species still rare in central Europe, while small patches are occupied by the abundant Tawny Owl.


Habitat fragmentation; Intraguild predation; Spatial segregation; Strix aluco; Strix uralensis; Sympatry

Published in

Population Ecology
2015, volume: 57, number: 3, pages: 517-527

Authors' information

Kajtoch, Łukasz
Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)
Zmihorski, Michal
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Wieczorek, Paweł
Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Krakow

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