Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 1215–1223 | Cite as

Breeders and floaters use different habitat cover: should habitat use be a social status-dependent strategy?

  • Letizia CampioniEmail author
  • Rui Lourenço
  • María del Mar Delgado
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
Original Article


In order to understand habitat requirements in territorial species, it is important to take into account the specific tasks and constraints associated with the different stages and social status of an individual life cycle (e.g. territorial breeder or nonterritorial floater). However, social status has rarely been taken into account in studies on habitat preference, selection and use. In the present study, we compare habitat characteristics near nesting sites of Eagle Owl Bubo bubo breeders with those of diurnal roosting places chosen by floating owls. As both nesting and roosting sites are important components of an individual’s fitness (e.g. mating success vs. survival), we expected that the use of those locations would reflect the different cost–benefit trade-offs related to the status of breeder and floater, respectively. By analysing the structure of the forest stands and the landscape features surrounding both places at two spatial scales, we found that: (1) breeders and the floaters used forest stands with a different vertical structure; compared with the floaters, the breeders used more mature stands characterised by higher trees; (2) as expected, breeders and floaters did not show any specific habitat use at the landscape scale. Our results showed a clear discrepancy in habitat use according to social classes, suggesting social tasks/constraints (successful reproduction vs. overcoming dispersal costs) as potential determinants of two divergent strategies in habitat use.


Habitat use Social status Floaters Eagle Owl Bubo bubo Trade-off 


Brüter und Nichtbrüter nutzen unterschiedliche Habitatbedeckung: sollte Habitatnutzung eine Strategie sein, die vom sozialen Status abhängt?

Um Habitatansprüche territorialer Arten zu verstehen, ist es wichtig, die spezifischen Aufgaben und Einschränkungen zu berücksichtigen, die mit unterschiedlichen Abschnitten und sozialen Status im Lebenszyklus eines Individuums (z. B. territorialer Brüter oder nicht territorialer Nichtbrüter) zusammenhängen. Der soziale Status ist in Studien über Habitatpräferenzen, -selektion und -nutzung jedoch nur selten in Betracht gezogen worden. In der vorliegenden Studie vergleichen wir Habitateigenschaften in der Nähe von Niststandorten brütender Uhus (Bubo bubo) mit denen von Ruheplätzen, die nicht brütende Eulen tagsüber nutzen. Da sowohl Brut- als auch Ruheplätze wichtige Komponenten der individuellen Fitness (z. B. Paarungserfolg versus Überleben) sind, erwarteten wir, dass die Nutzung dieser Plätze die unterschiedlichen Kosten-Nutzen-Abwägungen, die den Status als Brüter bzw. Nichtbrüter betreffen, wiederspiegeln würde. Indem wir die Struktur der Waldbestände und die beide Plätze umgebenden Landschaftsmerkmale auf zwei räumlichen Ebenen analysiert haben, fanden wir heraus, dass (1) Brüter und Nichtbrüter Waldbestände mit unterschiedlicher vertikaler Struktur nutzten—verglichen mit Nichtbrütern nutzten die Brüter ältere Bestände, die sich durch höhere Bäume auszeichneten, und dass (2) wie erwartet Brüter und Nichtbrüter keinerlei spezifische Habitatnutzung bezüglich des Landschaftstyps zeigten. Unsere Ergebnisse zeigten einen klaren Unterschied in der Habitatnutzung entsprechend dem sozialen Status, was darauf hindeutet, dass soziale Aufgaben/Einschränkungen (erfolgreiche Fortpflanzung versus Überwinden der Kosten der Ausbreitung) potenzielle Determinanten zweier unterschiedlicher Habitatnutzungsstrategien darstellen.



The first draft of the manuscript has been greatly improved thanks to the comment of Pete Bloom and an anonymous referee. We are grateful to O. Mora, C. Bettega and F. Goitre for their help during the field work. Funding for this study was provided by the research project from Consejería de Medio Ambiente, of the Junta de Andalucía (research project no. 700/2005/M/00./). During this work L.C. was supported by a doctoral grant (JAE pre-doc from the C.S.I.C.). Owls were trapped and marked under the Junta de Andalucía–Consejería de Medio Ambiente permit nos. SCFFSAFR/GGG RS-260/02 and SCFFS-AFR/CMM RS-1904/02.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Letizia Campioni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rui Lourenço
    • 1
    • 2
  • María del Mar Delgado
    • 1
    • 3
  • Vincenzo Penteriani
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Conservation Biology, Biological Station of DoñanaC.S.I.C.SevilleSpain
  2. 2.LabOr—Laboratory of Ornithology and Institute of Mediterranean Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  3. 3.Metapopulation Research Group, Department of BiosciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Finnish Museum of Natural History, Zoological MuseumUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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