Population Ecology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 175–185 | Cite as

Superpredation patterns in four large European raptors

  • Rui LourençoEmail author
  • Sara Maria Santos
  • João Eduardo Rabaça
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
Original Article


Predatory interactions among top predators, like superpredation or intraguild predation (IGP), can influence community structure. Diurnal raptors occupy high trophic levels in terrestrial food webs, and thus can regulate the presence of mesopredators. We studied superpredation (the killing and eating of another predator) in four large European raptors. We gathered 121 dietary studies, totalling 161,456 prey for the Goshawk Accipiter gentilis L., Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos L., Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata Vieillot, and Eagle Owl Bubo bubo L. Results showed that superpredation: (1) is a widespread interaction in large raptors, but it can vary according to the top predator species; (2) is not an important energetic resource for large raptors, but rather seems mostly related to diet diversification when the main prey decreases; (3) is spatially clustered reflecting habitat heterogeneity, but shows no temporal or large-scale spatial trends; and (4) it is associated with lower breeding success of the top predator species. These findings support the food stress hypothesis as the main driving force behind increases in superpredation and IGP in raptors, with the decrease in breeding performance as a side effect. Superpredation by large raptors deserves future research to understand its effects on mesopredators, because on one hand it might contribute to promote biodiversity, while on the other hand, it can sometimes represent an additional risk for small populations of endangered mesopredators.


Food stress Generalist diet Intraguild predation Mesopredators Omnivory Top predators 



We thank Michela Marchi-Bartolozzi for useful comments and English revision, and Maria del Mar Delgado who helped gathering references and ideas. Roger Jovani, José Antonio Sánchez Zapata and an anonymous referee made helpful suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. During this work R.L. and S.M.S. were supported by doctoral degree grants from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Portugal (respectively, BD/27434/2006 and BD/21403/2005), and V.P. was granted by the Secretaría General de Universidades, Spanish Ministry of Education (Salvador de Madariaga Program).

Supplementary material

10144_2010_199_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (162 kb)
S1–S5 (PDF 161 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rui Lourenço
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sara Maria Santos
    • 4
  • João Eduardo Rabaça
    • 2
    • 3
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Conservation BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana, CSICSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Laboratory of Ornithology (LabOr), Department of BiologyUniversity of ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  3. 3.Mediterranean Landscapes and Ecosystems Research Group, ICAAM, Institute of Mediterranean Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Animal Biology, Centre of Environmental Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  5. 5.Finnish Museum of Natural History, Zoological MuseumUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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