Differential predation on certain classes of individuals within prey populations might make owls strong selective agents on their prey. We investigated selective predation of tawny owls (Strix aluco) on yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis, A.f.) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus, M.g.) for two years by comparing prey from owl nests with live-trapped individuals. The owls killed significantly more male M.g. (73%) than females, but not more than expected from traps (57%). For A.f., owls selected adults in favour of subadults, and for adults, individuals with longer femurs. Adult males of A.f. killed by owls had significantly heavier testes in relation their size than the trapped males. Prey selection did not correlate with size-adjusted body or spleen mass. Owl-killed A.f. had higher prevalences of the intestinal helminth Heligmosomoides sp. than trapped individuals, but hosted similar numbers of parasite species. Differential predation of tawny owls on yellow-necked mice and bank voles seems to reflect higher exposure to predator encounters of prime individuals rather than selection for substandard individuals.
Annales Zoologici Fennici, 2012, Vol 49, Issue 5-6, p. 321-330