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Das Verhalten Gefangener Waldohreulen (Asio Otus Otus) Und Waldkäuze (Strix Aluco Aluco) Zur Beute

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The foregoing treatise is mainly concerned with an analysis of the perceptual world of owls seeking prey. Experiments were made to discover by what features of sound, sight, smell, or taste captive owls recognised the various prey species. The results refer to experiments with 5 specimens of Asio otus otus and 17 of Strix aluco aluco, the origins of which are mostly unknown to me. Of these, 4 of the latter kind, for reasons unknown, never reacted to living prey. In general, a satiated owl continues to kill prey even if it does not intend to eat it, whereas in the same situation it refuses meat offered as food. This behaviour supports LORENZ' (1937) conclusion for predatory animals in general, viz. that killing and eating belong to two different functional centres. Free owls seem to behave in a similar manner for they often lay in stores of food without eating from them. The hunting instincts of the owls are only aroused by living prey. This fact was used to find out whether an owl looked upon a dummy as dead or as living prey. When a satiated owl struck a dummy I concluded that the dummy was regarded as a living prey and had been seized for the sake of striking only. The position when catching prey was another criterion. When catching living prey the owls usually spread their wings and remain thus motionless for a few seconds. This never happens when a dead prey is grasped. In order to find out by experiment what combinations of impulses were operative when prey was caught, the components of an action had first to be analysed. The analysis of the complex action resulted in the following components being distinguished. 1. Fixation movements (Fig. 2 a-d), 2. Striking down and catching, 3. Catching position (Fig. 3), 4. Examination of the prey to find its head, 5. Return of the body to the normal position, 6. Fixation and killing of prey, 7. Flying away (The prey is generally carried in one claw, rarely in the beak), 8. Eating or hiding of the prey. When eating a mouse the head is generally separated from the body and swallowed first, now and then a small mouse is swallowed whole. I then tried to discover the single components of action by a number of experiments with living and dead preys and with moving and stationary dummies. The results were as follows. 1. The prey "mouse" or "small species of mammal" is represented by the releasing scheme "body with moving limbs" or merely by "body with visibly moving muscles". There existed no clear and distinct pattern "mouse" for these imprisoned owls. Neither olfactory nor gustatory stimuli influenced them much, e.g. mice with a strong smell and taste of vinegar were killed and swallowed at once, mice with a strong scent of lavender were rejected for a while but eventually caught. Rustling or scratching noises, produced by mice or beetles caused the owls to make movements of seeking. Whether they were able to locate the origin of a sound by their ears only, did not emerge clearly from my experiments. 2. Prey without any limbs such as worms and slow-worms are caught by Strix aluco aluco. The worms were picked up direct from the ground, obviously together with a great deal of earth. The rhythmical shortenings and lengthenings of the body of the worm, possibly also the meandering movements of its head-end, were the effective stimuli. 3. The prey "beetle" is represented by "body with moving limbs". This movement is sufficient without locomotion (e.g. a beetle on its back, sprawling with its legs). On the other hand locomotion without any movement of limbs does not rouse the impulse (e.g. a dead beetle pulled across the ground by means of a thread). Beetles of the species of Melolontha vulgaris and hippocastani are mostly caught with the claw, cockroaches (Blatta orientalis) picked up from the ground with the beak. The size of the prey seems to determine the method of catching. 4. The prey "bird" corresponds to the stimulus situation "oval body with plumage and a tail clearly discernible in the axis of the body". Movement is of no importance here. It is unknown whether the owls catch flying birds. The captive Asio were afraid of flying sparrows (Passer domesticus), but Strix was not. The two species'only caught. living sparrows when these had perched somewhere. 5. Living frogs were caught by Strix but not always eaten. They often seem to tear out the thighs of the frogs before devouring them. Asio killed but never ate frogs. 6. Fish were caught in the water by Strix, but never when dead. Some .specimens even disdained living fish. As to Asio, on one occasion only one of them caught a small fish though without swallowing it. 7. Strix, Asio, and Bubo bubo bubo sometimes swallowed green parts of plants, e.g. ivy, lettuce, beech-leaves, red cabbage. This does not seem due to lack of material for pellet formation. 8. A few provisional experiments with 4 young animals without any experience of prey whatever resulted as follows: while unfledged, the birds did not catch any prey. They were afraid of living mice. From fledging until the moulting season they reacted with signs of'attacking, to any moved object, e.g. paper balls, moved rabbit tails, rags, flowing water. They struck pieces of meat as well as living prey, often burying their claws deep and forcefully into the ground as if they were killing prey. When at the age of about 45 days they were given a living mouse they struck it very clevery at once. After having been given mice several times they lost what interest they had in dummies. A young Asio which saw its first living mouse only after moulting, at the age of 3 months made a show of "threatening", but even after two days' fasting it did not strike a living mouse. - The question whether the different patterns of prey are innate in the owls or have to be acquired cannot yet be answered.


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