Little owls on the move
By University of Freiburg
The little owl, Athene noctua, is a small nocturnal owl and is classified as an endangered species on the German Red List. In recent years the existing population of little owls has successfully been stabilized in the south-west of Germany, and in some places numbers are even rising. In neighboring northern Switzerland on the other hand there is still no established population of little owls, even though habitat conditions seem suitable for the species. Now, a team of researchers headed by Severin Hauenstein from the Department of Biometry and Environmental Systems Analysis at the University of Freiburg has researched whether juvenile little owls from Germany could reach and re-colonize northern Switzerland. The scientists have published their results in the peer-reviewed journal Ecological Applications.
“It is difficult to predict how animals will disperse”, says Hauenstein. To explore the dispersal potential of little owls, he and his colleagues from the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach, Switzerland, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and the University of Regensburg have developed an individual-based computer model. Using simulations, the researchers are able to assess whether individuals from the currently expanding little owl populations in south-western Germany are able to migrate to suitable habitats in northern Switzerland. Intensive farming and a steady loss of habitat has caused virtual extinction of the little owl in Switzerland.