Feeding Ecology of the Long-Legged Buzzard and Diet Overlap with Sympatric Bonelli's Eagle on Cyprus

Nicolaos I. Kassinis, Elli Tzirkalli, Michalis Miltiadou, Michaella Moysi, Iris Charalambidou, Alexandre Roulin, Ioannis N. Vogiatzakis

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Interspecific competition occurs when two sympatric species utilize the same limited supply of a basic resource, such as food; the degree of diet overlap is an essential metric for examining potential competition between the species. The Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) is a relative newcomer to the island of Cyprus, where it is sympatric with the larger Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata), a potential competitor for both food and space (nesting territories). We studied the diet of the Long-legged Buzzard in the 2005, 2006, and 2018 nesting seasons through analysis of pellets and prey remains collected at 38 sites. The most abundant prey class was mammals (68.8% frequency, 58.9% biomass), followed by reptiles (16.8% frequency, 36.3% biomass), and birds (4.3% frequency, 4.6% biomass). The most numerous prey species were black rats (Rattus rattus), starred agamas (Stellagama stelio), house mice (Mus musculus), and large whip snakes (Dolichophis jugularis), but in terms of biomass, the most important prey items were black rats, large whip snakes, long-eared hedgehogs (Hemiechinus auritus dorotheae), and starred agamas. We compared the diet of the Long-legged Buzzard to that of the Bonelli's Eagle, whose diet was dominated by birds (62.1% frequency, 76.1% biomass) and to a lesser degree by mammals (29.5% frequency, 21.9% biomass). The mean prey biomass for the Long-legged Buzzard was estimated as 167 g, compared to 350 g for the Bonelli's Eagle; this difference reflected the almost two-fold difference in mass between females of the two species. Diet overlap measured with Pianka's index was <0.5, suggesting an intermediate niche overlap mainly due to utilization of an abundant prey resource, such as the black rat. Niche breadth for the Long-legged Buzzard measured using Levins' index ranged from 0.485 in 2005 to 0.081 in 2018. This decrease in niche breadth over time in a generalist species can occur when there is a superabundance of a particular prey. The mean Levins' index for the Bonelli's Eagle was also low, 0.271 (1999-2001). Based on the diet comparison, we concluded that there was no evidence for interspecific competition in terms of food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-345
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Raptor Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


  • Aquila fasciata
  • avian
  • Bonelli's Eagle
  • breadth
  • Buteo rufinus
  • competition
  • diet
  • interspecific
  • Long-legged Buzzard
  • niche
  • raptor


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