Golden Eagles on the Swedish mountain tundra - diet and breeding success in relation to prey fluctuations

Publicerad 2006 av Jesper Nyström

Zoology Zoologi Naturvetenskap Natural Sciences
Typ av publikation: Artiklar
Typ av innehåll: Refereegranskad publ.

Ingår i:
Ornis Fennica

Published by: Stockholms universitet, ISSN:0030-5685,


We studied the diet and the relationship between prey density fluctuations and breeding success of a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) population on the mountain tundra region of northern Sweden. We used a new PCR based method to analyse the DNA in bone fragments from Golden Eagle prey remains. This allowed us to accurately identify the Ptarmigan species that the bone fragments originated from, and hence, establish the proportions of Ptarmigan species in the eagle's diet.

We could conclude that Ptarmigan species (Lagopus spp.) are the most important prey category for this Golden Eagle population (63% of all identified prey), and that Willow Ptarmigan (L. lagopus) occurred more frequently in the diet than Rock Ptarmigan (L. mutus) did (Willow Ptarmigan 38%, Rock Ptarmigan 25%). Other important prey included reindeer (Rang fer tarandus), mountain hare (Lepus timidus) and microtine rodents.

The Golden Eagles managed to maintain a relatively broad food niche, despite an environment with low prey diversity. Microtine rodents, hare and Ptarmigan populations showed similar population fluctuations in the study area. The breeding success of the Golden Eagles showed a strong relationship to the yearly density index of the most important prey category, the Ptarmigan species.