Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 333–342 | Cite as

Hierarchical habitat selection by Eurasian Pygmy Owls Glaucidium passerinum in old-growth forests of the southern French Prealps

  • Luc Barbaro
  • Sébastien Blache
  • Gilles Trochard
  • Cindie Arlaud
  • Nathalie de Lacoste
  • Yves Kayser
Original Article


Maintaining or restoring old-growth stand structures in mountain forests, including deadwood and snags provided by natural disturbances, is considered critical for the conservation of secondary cavity-nesting birds. Under current climate warming, old-growth mountain forests might become increasingly important for boreo-alpine species living in the southern part of their ranges. Here, we focused on hierarchical habitat selection by Eurasian Pygmy Owls Glaucidium passerinum in mixed mountain forests at their low latitude range limit in the southern French Prealps. We quantified Pygmy Owl habitat use at complementary hierarchical levels, from the local population to individual home ranges, by combining systematic playback counts and radio-telemetry. Mean home range sizes for breeding adult males covered 0.67 km2, ranging between 0.46 and 0.98 km2. We found evidence for Pygmy Owl habitat selection being a consistently hierarchical process, with (1) fir-dominated forests selected as the main habitat at the population level; (2) old-growth fir-dominated forest stands including edges with grassland gaps and karstic eroded areas selected at the home range level; and (3) amount of surrounding dead or decaying spruces increasing the occurrence probability of owl nesting cavities. Conserving Pygmy Owls at their low latitude range limit therefore requires the maintenance of old-growth mixed forests dominated by firs that provide these critical habitat features within a complex and heterogeneous landscape mosaic.


Boreal owl Home range Mountain forests Radio-telemetry Secondary cavity-nester Southern distribution limit 


Hierarchische Habitat-Auswahl beim Sperlingskauz (Glaucidium passerinum) in alten Waldbeständen des französischen Voralpenlandes

Das Erhalten oder die Wiederherstellung alter Bestandsstrukturen in Gebirgswäldern inklusive des durch natürliche Störeinflüsse entstandenen Totholzes und der Baumstümpfe wird als ausschlaggebend für den Erhalt derjenigen Vögel betrachtet, die in sekundären Bruthöhlen nisten. Bei der derzeitigen Klimaerwärmung könnten die alten Gebirgswald-Bestände für diejenigen boreoalpinen Arten immer wichtiger werden, die am südlichen Rand ihrer Verbreitungsgebiete leben. In unserer Studie konzentrierten wir uns auf die hierarchische Habitat-Auswahl von Sperlingskäuzen (Glaucidium passerinum) in Mischwäldern auf mittlerer Höhe der südlichen französischen Voralpen. Mit einer Kombination von Radio-Telemetriedaten und systematisch erfassten Ruf-Zählungen quantifizierten wir die Nutzung der Habitate auf allen Ebenen: von der örtlichen Population bis hin zu den alltäglichen Lebensräumen der Einzeltiere. Die Größe der individuellen Lebensräume brütender, adulter Männchen reichte von 0,46 bis 0,98 km2 und betrug im Schnitt 0,67 km2. Wir fanden Hinweise darauf, dass die Habitat-Auswahl bei Sperlingskäuzen ein durchgängig hierarchischer Vorgang ist: (i) Tannen-dominierte Wälder wurden auf Populations-Ebene als wichtigste Habitate ausgewählt, (ii) auf der Ebene der individuellen Habitate lagen Altbestände von Tannenwäldern, die mit Wiesenflecken und karstig erodierten Bereichen durchsetzt war, an erster Stelle, und (iii) die Menge an toten oder vermodernden Fichten erhöhten die Wahrscheinlichkeit, Nisthöhlen der Sperlingskäuze zu finden. Sperlingskäuze auf den niedrigeren Höhen ihrer Verbreitungsgebieten zu halten, erfordert daher den Erhalt von alten, vorherrschend mit Tannen besetzten Mischwäldern, die innerhalb eines komplexen und heterogenen Landschaftsbildes diese wichtigen Auswahlkriterien für Habitate bieten.



We warmly acknowledge D. Chamberlain, L. Brotons and 2 anonymous reviewers for improving the previous versions of the manuscript. We thank F. Jiguet and O. Dehorter (MNHN Paris) for SB’s personal ringing program on Pygmy Owls, F. Archaux, A. and M. Barbaro, J.Y. Barnagaud, B. Castagneyrol, G. Caullireau, Y. Charbonnier, H. Chirouze, A. Goyot, E. Le Moigne, J. L’Huillier, D. Piou, E. Rousset, L. Trebucq, I. van Halder and B. Veillet for help and advice, and J.L. Traversier (ONF 26), F. Andrieu (DREAL 26), P.E. Biron (RN Hauts Plateaux du Vercors) and Fondation Nature and Découvertes for study funding.

Supplementary material

10336_2015_1285_MOESM1_ESM.doc (164 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 163 kb)


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luc Barbaro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sébastien Blache
    • 3
  • Gilles Trochard
    • 3
  • Cindie Arlaud
    • 3
  • Nathalie de Lacoste
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yves Kayser
    • 4
  1. 1.INRA, UMR1202 BIOGECOCestasFrance
  2. 2.Univ. Bordeaux, BIOGECO, UMR1202TalenceFrance
  3. 3.Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux Drôme, Domaine de GotheronSaint Marcel Les ValenceFrance
  4. 4.Centre de recherche de la Tour du ValatArlesFrance

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