Home range and habitat selection of Long-eared Owls (Asio otus) in Mediterranean agricultural landscapes (Crete, Greece)

D. Emin, A.G. Toxopeus, T.A. Groen, I. Kontogeorgos, E. Georgopoulou, S. Xirouchakis (Corresponding Author)

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The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) in Crete (Greece) is a common agricultural species affected by the recent changes in agro-forestry systems. Concrete studies of habitat selection are needed in order to improve our knowledge of its foraging behaviour in managed rural landscapes. In the present study, we analysed the home range size and habitat selection of 11 Long-eared Owls inside olive groves in the plain of central Crete using radio tracking data and remote sensing images. Six nominal scale and 11 landscape scale predictors were used
for habitat selection analysis, using a maximum entropy approach. Home range size ranged between 337 and 969 ha while a 52% of home range overlap was observed suggesting that Long-eared Owls do not defend hunting territories. At the nominal scale, distance to potential roosts (trees) was the most important contributor
to model performance, followed by vegetation heterogeneity. Furthermore, local heterogeneity of greenness was a better predictor than simply greenness at the presence location. At the landscape scale the amount of habitat openness significantly improved model performance. Incorporating landscape heterogeneity improved habitat selection prediction compared to using only discrete land cover classification. Results of our study pinpoint that although Long-eared Owls exhibit a wide range of habitat tolerance, they prefer mixed habitat conditions avoiding particularly open areas or dense olive plantations. The research has implications in the face of new reforms of European Common Agricultural policy which emphasised the importance of landscape structure in preserving biodiversity in agricultural areas of Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-218
Number of pages15
JournalAvian Biology Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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