Video recording of prey deliveries to nests is a new technique for collecting data on raptor diet, but no thorough comparison of results from traditional methods based on collections of prey remains and pellets has been undertaken. We compared data from these 3 methods to determine relative merits of different methods for assessing raptor diet as part of a study of the breeding-season diet of northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) in Southeast Alaska. We applied these methods to 5 nests during each of the northern goshawk breeding seasons of 1998 and 1999 and identified 1,540 prey from deliveries, 209 prey from remains, and 209 prey from pellets. The proportions of birds and mammals varied among techniques, as did relative proportions of prey groups and age groups. Prey remains and pellets gave the least-similar diet descriptions. Over 2-day intervals during which data were collected using all 3 methods, prey-delivery data gave more individual prey and prey categories than the 2 other sources of information. We found that prey were not directly tracked in either prey remains or pellets compared with prey delivery videography. Analysis of prey-delivery videography provided the most complete description of diet, and we recommend that studies attempting to describe diet use this technique, at least as part of their methodology.
Additional publication details
A comparison of three methods for assessing raptor diet during the breeding season