We assessed dietary exposure of the little owl Athene noctua to trace metal contamination in a Dutch Rhine River floodplain area. Diet composition was calculated per month for three habitat types, based on the population densities of six prey types (earthworms, ground beetles and four small mammal species) combined with the little owl's functional response to these prey types. Exposure levels showed a strong positive relationship with the dietary fraction of earthworms, but also depended on the dietary fraction of common voles, with higher common vole fractions resulting in decreasing exposure levels. Spatio-temporal changes in the availability of earthworms and common voles in particular resulted in considerable variation in exposure, with peaks in exposure exceeding a tentative toxicity threshold. These findings imply that wildlife exposure assessments based on a predefined, average diet composition may considerably underestimate local or intermittent peaks in exposure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Journal publication date2012

ID: 338959