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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 375260, 10 pages
Research Article

What Explains Forest Grouse Mortality: Predation Impacts of Raptors, Vole Abundance, or Weather Conditions?

1Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland
2Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland

Received 31 July 2011; Revised 22 December 2011; Accepted 5 January 2012

Academic Editor: Chandra Prakash Kala

Copyright © 2012 Risto Tornberg et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We investigated predation rates of black grouse chicks during 1985–2007 in two localities in western Finland in light of three predation hypothesis: The Alternative Prey Hypothesis (APH) stating that vole-eating generalist predators cause a collapse in grouse reproduction after voles’ decline, the Main Prey Hypothesis (MPH), where grouse specialised predators by a lagged response cause an inversely density dependent predation for prey and the Predation Facilitation Hypothesis (PFH), where generalist and specialist predators act in concert. We also studied the effect of weather on grouse reproduction. We found that buzzard predation alone did not support APH, but did so when combined with goshawk predation. Kill rate by goshawks showed a linear response for black grouse chicks but was not density dependent. It, however, explained the losses of chicks but not their autumn density. Combined density of chicks with adults correlated with vole index in the latter study period (since 1994), thus, giving some support for APH. Weather seemed to have no effect on black grouse reproduction. Although buzzards and goshawks took, on average, only 10% of hatched grouse chicks we conclude that the among-year survival pattern of juvenile forest grouse may largely be determined by raptor predation.