Comparison of the diet of two desert-living owls, the Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) and Little Owl (Athene noctua) from Southern Mongolia

Dawn Scott, Karen Gladwin, Nigel Barton

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The diet of two sympatric owl species, the long-eared owl (Asio otus) and the little owl (athene noctua) was investigated in an arid area of southern Mongolia using pellet analysis. In total 334 pellets of long-eared owl and 52 pellets of little owl were analysed, revealing the presence of five small mammal species (Dipodidae, three Muridae and one Soricidae), small birds and invertebrate fragments. Accumulative composition plots indicated a batch size of 35-60 pellets was sufficient to reveal representative diet composition. Small mammals comprised the largest component of the diet of long eared owls with four species recorded, Phodopus was the most frequently occurring (85%) followed by Meriones (33%). Bird and invertebrate remains were also found in long-eared owl pellets but comprised less than 2%. In contrast, invertebrates were the highest occurring component of the diet of little owls (35%), with small mammals occurring in only 40% of pellets. Meriones was the most frequently recorded small mammal in owl pellets (23%) and contributed the greatest in terms of overall rodent biomass. There was a highly statistically significant difference in the diet of the two species (÷2 = 2043, d.f. = 4,P<0.001). Levin's measure of niche breadth was greater for little owls (0.71) than long-eared owls (0.51), but overall the two species had low niche overlap using Levin's index (0.22). These results are discussed in relation to previous findings of these two species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-37
Number of pages7
JournalMongolian Journal of Biological Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • desert
  • diet
  • little owl
  • long-eared owl
  • Mongolia
  • niche


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