Aves, p�le ornithologique de Natagora

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Aves, 47/2 | 2010 | 75-83

  Overlap of the ecological niches of the Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica and the House Martin Delichon urbicum around farms
van den Broek, K.

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Article summary

The objectives of this study were to measure the niche breadth of two species of swallows, the Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica and the House Martin Delichon urbicum and to quantify potential niche overlap among these species. We examined their habitat during the reproductive season and more precisely the hunting environment of populations living in allopatry in the province of Namur, Belgium. We considered two main niche dimensions - flight height and distance from nest during foraging - evaluating the vertical and horizontal distribution of these species. We studied the flight height by using an original experimental technique, based on the use of digital photographs. Consequently, the comparison of flight height indicated that there was an important spatial separation between the two species (Pianka’s indexes ranging from 0.034 to 0.138). Concerning the flight distance, the hunting frequency was measured at 100, 200 and 400 metres away from the farm building with the nests. The spatial distribution of each species is very similar and so, there is an important overlap between these two species, ranging from 92.1 to 99.7%. As expected by the niche complementarity hypothesis, a high overlap in one niche dimension (horizontal distribution in this study) is compensated by a low overlap in at least one of the other dimensions (vertical distribution in this case) (Pianka, 1974).

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