Although the associations between climate, food conditions and reproduction in the wild has been the focus of numerous studies in recent years, we still know little about population level responses to climate and fluctuating food conditions in long-lived species and during longer periods of time. Here, we assessed the relative importance of the abundance of the main prey in winter (small mammals), and winter climate on population size and productivity in a Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) population in southern Finland during a 40-year period. We studied how population trends changed over time and in relation to winter weather and small mammal abundance on three levels: total estimated population size, proportion of breeders and population productivity. We identified declining trends in each population parameter over time, as well as directional changes in climate variables and prey abundance. Overall, small mammal abundance was the foremost predictor in explaining the variation in the number of active territorial pairs (population size). Moreover, both prey abundance and winter temperature significantly affected the proportion of territorial pairs that attempted to breed and thereby total offspring production, which reveals the relevance of winter weather conditions for population productivity. These results provide additional support to the view that changes in climate can modify predator–prey interactions leading to functional changes in the food web.
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