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Eurasian eagle owl pellets offer records of threatened giant bush-crickets

Jan. 5 (UPI) — The Balkan Peninsula hosts the greatest diversity of grasshoppers, crickets and bush-crickets on Earth, but in many countries, including Bulgaria, data on rare and endangered species is sparse.

The big-bellied glandular bush-cricket, Bradyporus macrogaster, is one such rare species.

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To better understand the distribution and abundance of the endangered cricket, in addition to two closely related bush crickets, scientists turned to the pellets of partially digested food regurgitated by Bulgaria’s Eurasian eagle owl, Bubo bubo.

Their survey of owl pellets in southeastern Bulgaria showed the Eurasian eagle owl has come to rely heavily on the three bush cricket species, especially on the endangered big-bellied glandular bush-cricket.

More than just a home to bush cricket diversity, the Palearctic realm — a terrestrial biogeographic realm comprising Europe, temperate Asia and North Africa — is one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet.

But in Bulgaria and the surrounding Balkans, many populations of small mammals and birds are on the decline.

The latest data, published last week in the Journal of “Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History, suggests the Eurasian eagle owl is an opportunistic hunter and has taken advantage of bush crickets as other types of prey have declined.

“Pellet remnants of the Eurasian eagle owl may provide data of rare and overlooked orthoptera species and thus raise knowledge on their conservation status and conservation needs,” researchers wrote.

Orthoptera is an insect order comprising grasshoppers, crickets and bush crickets.

Authors of the new study suggest analysis of bird pellets can provide valuable information on both the abundance and distribution of individual species, as well as the overall composition and health of local ecosystems.

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Science News – UPI.com

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