Food-niche differentiation in sympatric Hen Circus cyaneus and Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) Science Article 4


Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus and Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus are medium-sized raptors that differ in size (Hen Harrier being slightly bigger than Montagu’s Harrier) and breeding system (Montagu’s Harriers are semi-colonial and Hen Harriers defend nesting-hunting territories). In contrast, the diets of the two species when in sympatry are very similar. We evaluated food-niche differentiation among these coexisting raptor species and how between-species differences in body size and social system influence interspecific relationships. We present data from a study conducted in 1997 and 1998 in northeastern Madrid province (central Spain). Diet of the two species largely overlapped (55-95%) during the breeding season, but Hen Harriers preyed more often on larger species. This segregation was observed both in the average size of the primary prey (lagomorphs) and in the alternative prey (birds for Hen Harriers vs. insects for Montagu’s Harriers), and was particularly apparent late in the season.

J. T. GARCIA & B. E. ARROYO, Ibis 147 (1), 144-154

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