Main content area

Impacts of Agriculture on the Diet and Productivity of Mackinder's Eagle Owls (Bubo capensis mackinderi ) in Kenya

Ogada, Darcy L., Kibuthu, Paul M.
Biotropica 2009 v.41 no.4 pp. 485-492
Bubo, Mastomys, Procavia, biodiversity, birds, breeding, carrots, corn, correlation, crop production, diet, farming systems, farms, grasslands, habitats, insects, land use change, peas, pellets, small mammals, trapping, Kenya
Land conversion for agriculture is an increasing threat to biodiversity conservation, but its ecological effects on African birds is practically unknown. We investigated the impacts of agriculture on the diet and productivity of a small, disjunct population of Mackinder's eagle owls (Bubo capensis mackinderi ) in central Kenya. Owl diet was determined by analysis of pellets and other remains and compared to small mammal populations estimated by live trapping in two habitats. Small mammal abundance was low and averaged 7.4 small mammals/ha in farms and 0.5 small mammals/ha in grassland. Owls consumed a wide diversity of prey. The majority were mammals (87%) followed by birds (7%) and insects (5%). The percentage of small mammals in owl diet correlated positively with the relative abundance of small mammals during monthly trapping sessions. Diet composition did not influence owl breeding success. Farming activities affected owl diet composition through crop production. The amount of maize, peas, and carrots growing in farms was correlated with the abundance of Mastomys sp. and Procavia sp. in the owl's diet. Agricultural activities had a large effect on Mackinder's eagle owl diet by increasing the abundance of certain small-mammal prey and attracting owl prey to farms, though farming practices harmful to owls were observed.