Publication Details

Reference Category Journals
DOI / URL link
Document Shareable Link
Title (Primary) Barn owls as biological control agents: potential risks to non‐target rare and endangered species
Author Zaitzove-Raz, M.; Comay, O.; Motro, Y.;
Journal Animal Conservation
Year 2020
Department iDiv; ESS;
Language englisch;
POF III (all) T12;
Supplements https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/downloadSupplement?doi=10.1111%2Facv.12576&file=acv12576-sup-0001-AppendixS1.R
https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/downloadSupplement?doi=10.1111%2Facv.12576&file=acv12576-sup-0002-AppendixS2.csv
https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/downloadSupplement?doi=10.1111%2Facv.12576&file=acv12576-sup-0003-AppendixS3.docx
Keywords barn owls; biological control; rare rodents; endemic species; psammophiles; Israel
Abstract Rodent agricultural pests cause significant food loss every year. Attempts at mitigation via chemical pest control may cause secondary poisoning and harm non‐target species. Biological pest control by bolstering barn owl Tyto alba populations through the provision of artificial nest boxes is in use in several countries. The national biological pest control project of Israel began in the early 1980s in the Mediterranean zone and was subsequently expanded to the northwestern Negev desert, including areas adjacent to nature reserves and natural sand dunes, a threatened habitat in Israel. We analyzed prey of barn owls in the northwestern Negev to determine whether owls preyed on non‐target endemic, threatened rodents. A total of 14 632 prey items were collected from 95 nesting boxes between 2013 and 2016. We found that barn owls feed on protected and locally endangered species such as Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi (vulnerable − VU), Gerbillus pyramidum (VU), the endemic Meriones sacramenti (endangered) and Gerbillus gerbillus (critically endangered). These species constitute a significant proportion of barn owl diets (sometimes more than half of the prey items in a single nest box), especially in areas under 5 km from sand dunes, suggesting that bolstering the barn owl population may threaten locally endangered species. It could be hypothesized that agricultural crops serve as a resource for endangered species, allowing their numbers to increase, in which case their conservation status should be reassessed. However, extensive rodent trappings in agricultural fields in the region revealed <1% Gerbillus individuals, while in nearby dunes only gerbils were trapped. Insufficient data are available to assess whether or not M. sacramenti could have become a local pest. Our study highlights the risks that may be associated with the use of barn owls as rodent control agents in areas where natural open landscapes and nature reserves are interspersed with agricultural landscapes.
ID 23046
Persistent UFZ Identifier https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=20939&ufzPublicationIdentifier=23046
Zaitzove-Raz, M., Comay, O., Motro, Y. (2020):
Barn owls as biological control agents: potential risks to non‐target rare and endangered species
Anim. Conserv.