Do Tengmalm’s owls see vole scent marks visible in ultraviolet light?

Boreal Owl (aegolius funereus) Science Article 3


Scent markings (urine and f ces) of small mammals are visible in ultraviolet (UV) light. Diurnal kestrels, Falco tinnunculus, use them as a cue to find areas of food abundance. We studied whether vole-eating, nocturnal Tengmalm’s owls, golius funereus, can see vole scent marks using UV-vision. In a laboratory experiment, 14 young (less than 6 months old) and 14 adult (more than 6 months old) owls were individually given a choice between four adjacent arenas: (1) an arena with vole urine and f ces in UV light; (2) an arena with vole urine and f ces in visible light; (3) a clean arena in UV light; and (4) a clean arena in visible light. Owls did not prefer any of the four arenas. Our results suggest that Tengmalm’s owls probably do not use UV light as a cue to detect vole scent marks.

Koivula, M., Korpimaki, E. & Viitala, J. 1997, Animal Behaviour 54:873-877

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