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Diet breadth of a critically endangered owl presents challenges for invasive rodent management: a conservation conundrum

Sperring, V. Florence, Weeks, Andrew R., Webster, William, Macgregor, Nicholas A., Wilson, Melinda, Isaac, Bronwyn, Clarke, Rohan H. (2024) Diet breadth of a critically endangered owl presents challenges for invasive rodent management: a conservation conundrum. Emu - Austral Ornithology, 124 (2). pp. 187-198. ISSN 1448-5540. (doi:10.1080/01584197.2024.2335397) (KAR id:105881)


Trophic interactions between threatened species complicate management. Similarly, interactions between threatened species and pest species present management challenges, given that pest control can lead to non-target impacts (e.g. trophic cascades or secondary poisoning). There are records of the critically endangered Norfolk Island Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae undulata consuming both threatened songbirds and invasive rodents that are subject to management interventions. Nevertheless, the diet of the morepork remains largely unknown. We visually screened regurgitated pellets using a microscope, alongside environmental DNA (eDNA) screening of pellets and scats, to investigate the diet of the Norfolk Island Morepork. A total of 113 pellets and 19 scats were collected between October 2020 and June 2021. All moreporks screened with eDNA metabarcoding had consumed invasive rodents and at least one-third of samples contained rodents. The owls were also found to have consumed four of five endemic songbirds and possibly an endemic parrot, most of which are threatened. Environmental DNA metabarcoding detected more taxa overall, but visual screening identified a greater richness of Orthoptera and Coleoptera in the diet. The frequency with which the Norfolk Island Morepork consumed rodents presents a conundrum for conservation managers. Control of invasive rodents is considered essential to support threatened songbirds, yet this same action places the species at risk of secondary poisoning. Urgent investigations are needed to identify effective control methods for invasive rodents that are safe for non-target species.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/01584197.2024.2335397
Uncontrolled keywords: Anticoagulant rodenticide, secondary poisoning, eDNA, Norfolk Island Morepork, diet, conservation management
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 17 May 2024 14:39 UTC
Last Modified: 20 May 2024 09:18 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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