Diet and prey choice by the House Martin in Kabylia, Algeria

Boukhemza-Zemmouri, N., Farhi, Y., Mohamed Sahnoun, A., & Boukhemza, M. (2013). Diet composition and prey choice by the House Martin Delichon urbica (Aves: Hirundinidae) during the breeding period in Kabylia, Algeria. Italian Journal of Zoology, 80 (1): 117–124.

The diet of a colony of the House Martin Delichon urbica (Linnaeus, 1758), a breeding migratory species in Algeria, was studied from March to July 2004 in the city of Tizi Ouzou, Kabylia region, east of Algiers. It was mainly based on insects, which represented 99.6% of the 3746 food items recovered from 50 faeces. Most preys were winged insects. 178 taxa were identified at different levels, from order to species. Arachnida and Gastropoda were only occasionally captured and hence slightly represented. Hymenoptera dominated (77.6% of individual insects, 97.04% being ants), followed by Coleoptera (15.65%) and Heteroptera (4.99%). Other orders were few in terms of prey. They seemed to be captured only when the House Martin got an opportunity to do so. This study showed monthly variations among the species consumed, indicating a high level of plasticity in the diet. These variations correspond to the local availability and phenology of prey. Most preys are mainly small-sized. The preys of size estimated between 2 and 5 mm found in the fecal bags reflect that of Formicidae consumed by Delichon urbica such as Tetramorium biskrensis, Monomorium salomonis, Tapinoma nigerimum and Plagiolepis barbara. In Kabylia, as elsewhere, the House Martin appears to be an opportunist feeder which, when preys are abundant, selects those that best fit their nutritional requirements, but which can use others and becomes more eclectic when food becomes scarce.

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