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KLEYHEEG E & OSKAM C (2016) Unconventional prey choice by Little Owl Athene noctua in Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands. LIMOSA 89 (3): 120-123.

Breeding populations of Little Owl are struggling to persist in the western parts of the Netherlands despite efforts to improve their habitat and provisioning of artificial nesting sites. In the Krimpenerwaard, a particularly wet peat area with intensive agriculture, food availability is probably a limiting factor for population growth. Perhaps this has led to the surprising discovery in this area of three adult Black Terns Chlidonias niger and one Common Tern Sterna hirundo as prey in a nest box with two Little Owl chicks in the spring of 2015. Follow-up visits to the nest box revealed one more Black Tern and five more Common Terns, at least three Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius, one Common Ringed Plover C. hiaticula and one Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, all full-grown individuals except for two Common Tern chicks. Birds of this size class are a known alternative prey for Little Owl when the availability of primary food sources (voles and insects) is limited, but the species composition found in this study is remarkable. The terns and shorebirds were most likely taken from a recently created wetland at approximately 480 m from the nest location. To our knowledge, this is the first report of Little Owls preying on Black Terns.

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limosa 89.3 2016
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