eWestern Birds

The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

Vol. 41, No. 4
December 2010
Western Field Ornithologists

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Diet of the Western Screech-Owl in Southeast Alaska
Michelle L. Kissling, Stephen B. Lewis, and Daniel A. Cushing

ABSTRACT: We studied the diet of the Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) at the northern edge of its range, in southeast Alaska. To describe the diet in the breeding season we collected pellets from beneath roost trees or nest cavities of 10 radio-marked owls, their mates, and their young. Mammals (found in 46 of 48 groups of pellets, 98%) and invertebrates (81%) were the most frequently taken prey, birds (23%) the least. We tallied 115 mammalian and 25 invertebrate prey items (all insects). Mammalian prey was either rodents (Cricetidae) or shrews. To eliminate bias associated with pellet analysis and to describe the diet during the nonbreeding season, we analyzed stomach contents of 15 owl carcasses salvaged from September to February. Insects (47 of 57 prey items; 82%), particularly beetles and caterpillars dominated the contents of these stomachs numerically; mammals constituted only 5 of 57 items (9%). Thus in southeast Alaska Western Screech-Owls feed to a large extent on small mammals, primarily deer mice (Peromyscus), and supplement that diet with insects, especially in the winter.

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