The diet of Saker Falcon Falco cherrug overwintering in the Mediterranean (Sicily)

Bondì S., Prommer M., Sarà M.

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The winter diet of Saker Falcon Falco cherrug in the Mediterranean basin is unknown. Thanks to satellite tracking of two individuals from Hungary to Sicily, during winters 2012-13 and 2013-14 we identified the roost and collected 40 pellets. Pellet analysis allowed identification of 124 prey belonging to 29 taxa. Saker Falcons during winter shift their alimentation to insects and birds, with respect to mammals in the breeding season, plundering from small beetles to rabbits. Insects, especially Orthoptera and Coleoptera, were the most frequent prey in both years, totalling the 66.9% of remains. Among vertebrates the Saker Falcons preyed upon birds (21.77%), mammals (5.65%) and reptiles (4.84%). The Rock Dove plus Feral Pigeons are the key-species of winter diet, representing the 45.78% of biomass ingested in the two years. Agricultural intensification and land abandonment is rapidly changing steppe-like habitats of Mediterranean, and negatively affecting most potential prey of Saker Falcons. Conservation of this globally threatened species should consider also anthropogenic pressures outside the breeding range, and implement agri-environment schemes in the more suitable wintering grounds.