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Data from: The difference between generalist and specialist: the effects of wide fluctuations in main food abundance on numbers and reproduction of two co-existing predators

Citation

Korpimäki, Erkki; Hongisto, Kari; Masoero, Giulia; Laaksonen, Toni (2020), Data from: The difference between generalist and specialist: the effects of wide fluctuations in main food abundance on numbers and reproduction of two co-existing predators, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.51c59zw5q

Abstract

Specialist individuals within animal populations have shown to be more efficient foragers and/or to have higher reproductive success than generalist individuals, but interspecific reproductive consequences of the degree of diet specialisation in vertebrate predators have remained unstudied. Eurasian pygmy owls (hereafter POs) have less vole-specialised diets than Tengmalm’s owls (TOs), both of which mainly subsist on temporally fluctuating food resources (voles). To test whether the specialist TO is more limited by the main prey abundance than the generalist PO, we studied breeding densities and reproductive traits of co-existing POs and TOs in central-western Finland during 2002-2019. Breeding densities of POs increased with augmenting densities of voles in the previous autumn, whereas breeding densities of TOs increased with higher vole densities in both the previous autumn and the current spring. In years of vole scarcity, PO females started egg-laying earlier than TOs, whereas in years of vole abundance TO females laid eggs substantially earlier than PO females. The yearly mean clutch size and number of fledglings produced of both POs and TOs increased with abundance of voles in the current spring. POs laid large clutches and produced large broods in years of both high and low vole abundance, whereas TOs were able to do so only in years of high vole abundance. POs were able to raise on average 73% of the eggs to fledglings whereas TOs only 44%. The generalist foraging strategy of POs including flexible switching from main prey to alternative prey (small birds) appeared to be more productive than the strictly vole-specialized foraging strategy of TOs. In contrast to earlier studies at the individual-level, specialist predators at the species level (in this case TOs) appear to be less effective than generalists (POs), but diet specialisation was particularly costly under conditions when scarcity of main foods limited offspring production.