Patterns of Artificial Burrow Occupancy and Reuse by Burrowing Owls in Idaho

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Artificial burrow systems (ABS) have been used to manage populations of the western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea), study their breeding biology, and prevent construction impacts or mitigate habitat loss. However, few studies have documented rates of ABS reoccupancy or longevity. We examined patterns of ABS use by western burrowing owls in southwestern Idaho from 1997-2001 by establishing 104 clusters (2 or 3 ABS per cluster). Eighty of these clusters were both available and monitored for ≥4 years. Annual occupancy rate for the 80 clusters averaged 55.4±4.3% (SE), and reoccupancy rate was higher than other studies reported for owls nesting in natural burrows. Twenty-six of 80 (32.5%) clusters were used ≥4 years, and of these, owls nested in 14 clusters every year they were available. Our results indicate that artificial burrows provided long-term nest sites for burrowing owls, which has important implications for management and future conservation of this species.

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