DNA diet profiles with high‐resolution animal tracking data reveal levels of prey selection relative to habitat choice in a crepuscular insectivorous bird

Ruben Evens, Greg Conway, Kirsty Franklin, Ian Henderson, Jennifer Stockdale, Natalie Beenaerts, Karen Smeets, Thomas Neyens, Eddy Ulenaers, Tom Artois

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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Given the global decline of many invertebrate food resources, it is fundamental to understand the dietary requirements of insectivores. We give new insights into the functional relationship between the spatial habitat use, food availability, and diet of a crepuscular aerial insectivore, the European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) by relating spatial use data with high‐throughput sequencing (HTS) combined with DNA metabarcoding. Our study supports the predictions that nightjars collect a substantial part of their daily nourishment from foraging locations, sometimes at considerable distance from nesting sites. Lepidopterans comprise 65% of nightjars' food source. Nightjars tend to select larger species of Lepidoptera (>19 mm) which suggests that nightjars optimize the efficiency of foraging trips by selecting the most energetically favorable—larger—prey items. We anticipate that our findings may shed additional light on the interactions between invertebrate communities and higher trophic levels, which is required to understand the repercussions of changing food resources on individual‐ and population‐level processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13044-13056
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number23
Early online date16 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • DNA metabarcoding
  • food availability
  • foraging ecology
  • high-throughput sequencing
  • lepidoptera

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