Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Attraction of kestrels to vole scent marks visible in ultraviolet light

Abstract

IN northern Europe, broad four-year oscillations in small rodent and raptor populations are synchronous over hundreds of square kilometers1–6. Crashes in vole populations can induce wide emigration (> 1,000 km) of their predators7 –9, but almost nothing is known about how predators rapidly detect areas of vole abundance. Here we report on laboratory and field experiments on voles (Microtus agrestis) and kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). Voles mark their runaways with urine and faeces, which are visible in ultraviolet light. Wild kestrels brought into captivity were able to detect vole scent marks in ultraviolet light but not in visible light. In the field, kestrels hunted preferentially near experimental nest-boxes where artificial trails were treated with vole urine and faeces. We suggest that kestrels flying over an area can see and use vole scent marks to assess vole numbers. This ability would enable kestrels to 'screen' large areas in a relatively short time. Our results provide a novel explanation for how raptors detect patches of high vole densities without prior knowledge of local food resources.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Finerty, J. P. The Population Ecology of Cycles in Small Mammals. Mathematical Theory and Biological Fact (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Kalela, O. Ann. Acad. Sci. Fenn. A IV 66, 1–38 (1962).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Hanski, I. et al. Nature 364, 232–235 (1993).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Korpimäki, E. Oikos 45, 281–284 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Korpimäki, E. & Norrdahl, K. Ecology 72, 814–826 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Korpimäki, E. J. Anim. Ecol. 63, 619–628 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Andersson, M. J. Anim. Ecol. 49, 175–184 (1980).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Ward, R. M. P. & Krebs, C. J. Can. J. Zool. 63, 2817–2824 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Korpimäki, E., Lagerström, M. & Saurola, P. Ornis Scand. 18, 1–4 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Village, A. The Kestrel (Poyser, London, 1990).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Johnson, R. P. Behaviour 55, 81–93 (1975).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Rozenfeld, F. M., Le Boulange, E. & Rasmont, R. Can. J. Zool. 65, 2594–2601 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Desjardins, D., Maruniak, J. A. & Bronson, F. H. Science 182, 939–941 (1973).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Norrdahl, K. & Korpimäki, E. Oikos 67, 149–158 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Korpimäki, E. Oecologia 77, 278–285 (1988).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Palokangas, P., Alatalo, R. V. & Korpimäki, E. Anim. Behav. 43, 659–665 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kreithen, M. L. & Eisner, T. Nature 272, 347–348 (1978).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Hawryshyn, C. W. et al. J. comp. Physiol. A 166, 565–574 (1990).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Goldsmith, T. H. Science 207, 786–788 (1980).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Burkhardt, D. Naturwissenschaften 69, 153–157 (1982).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Burkhardt, D. J. comp. Physiol. A 164, 787–796 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fleishman, L. J., Loew, E. R. & Leal, M. Nature 365, 397 (1993).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Jacobs, G. H. Am. Zool. 32, 544–554 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Bennett, A. T. D. & Cuthill, I. C. Vision Res. 34, 1471–1478 (1994).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Chen, D.-M., Collins, J. S. & Goldsmith, T. H. Science 225, 337–340 (1984).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Maier, E. J. & Bowmaker, J. K. J. comp. Physiol. A 172, 295–301 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Alberts, A. C. Anim. Behav. 38, 129–137 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Viitala, J., Korplmäki, E., Palokangas, P. et al. Attraction of kestrels to vole scent marks visible in ultraviolet light. Nature 373, 425–427 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1038/373425a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/373425a0

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing