The predatory behaviour on mice by sample of seventeen captive barn owls (Tyto alba) was studied. The owls were divided into two groups according to their age when they entered the Rehabilitation Centre used for this study (either adults/subadults, i.e., with previous predatory experience in the wild, or as fledglings, without any experience of prey catching). The few differences between the behaviour patterns of the age groups suggested that predatory behaviour is mostly under genetic control. While most adult birds caught the mouse, only four young out of eleven studied did so. Both groups showed a decreasing trend in the latency of predation. The young birds were confused or in conflict when facing the prey, and in some cases the owl approached the mouse closely and then returned to the perch to begin a complete predatory sequence again. Three young birds of those that did not hunt were tested six months later. Two of these three young caught a mouse without any evident difficulty. The behaviour displayed by young birds and some patterns indicate that a maturation process is likely influencing the development of the predatory tendency, and do not fully support the hypothesis of the existence of some temporally well-defined periods.
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