The role of plasma testosterone in territorial behavior and breeding success, which has not previously been examined in nocturnal raptors, was studied in male Tawny Owls. Blood was collected for testosterone analysis during the territorial and nestling periods from owls breeding in nest boxes in Duna-Ipoly National Park, Hungary. Testosterone levels, defense activity, prey supply for broods and reproductive performance were related to breeding density and breeding experience of males. Defense activity, as measured by responses to broadcasted hooting calls and dummy owls during the territorial period, correlated positively with testosterone concentration. Males with more breeding experience had high testosterone levels and occupied better territories in dense breeding areas than less experienced males which had low testosterone concentrations. Mate fidelity was linked male quality: females were more likely to be tenacious in good territories. Testosterone levels dropped between territorial and feeding periods, however males with higher concentrations fed nestlings more frequently with high mass prey per night because food was more abundant in territories they had secured. We suggest that differences in testosterone levels in the provisioning period are related to the males' abilities to acquire territories of different quality.
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