We tested a hypothesis on the influence of prey distribution on habitat selection by the Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina in north-eastern Poland during the breeding season. We analysed the habitat composition in schematic territories around the nests of 116 breeding pairs of eagles (in a radius of 3 km) and related them to randomly selected sites. Next, we compared the habitat requirements of potential prey species with the proportion of different prey categories found in the eagle's diet. We demonstrated that, in contrast to random sites, eagle nests were located closer to the forest edges. The habitat composition of schematic territories of eagles was different from the random sites owing to the lower proportion of forest and higher proportion of meadows and agricultural land. The feeding habits of Lesser Spotted Eagles were opportunistic, and the diet was composed mainly of rodents (voles), insectivorous mammals (hedgehogs and moles), small birds, and amphibians. Small prey species (body mass below 50 g) and species indicating preferences for open habitats dominated in the diet of eagles (69% and 74% of prey captured respectively). Prey species inhabiting grasslands were hunted more frequently than species preferring agricultural areas. Moreover, eagle pairs nesting deep in the forest interior captured relatively more larger-sized species, whereas the proportion of small prey in the eagle's diet increased as the distance of nest from forest edge decreased. We hypothesize that eagles have to breed closer to the forest edge to minimize energy expenditure and time associated with prey capture and delivery to the nest.
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