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Avian Conservation & Ecology


Avian Conservation and Ecology



As urbanization continues to transform landscapes, it is imperative to find ways to conserve biodiversity within fragmented habitats. Forest interior dwelling birds are particularly vulnerable to development pressures because they require large tracts of forest to support their life cycles. Although Barred Owls (Strix varia) are frequently described as an obligate mature forest species, they have been found in urbanized landscapes. To determine if certain habitat characteristics, such as mature trees, facilitate the presence of Barred Owls in developed regions, we modeled Barred Owl occupancy probability along a development gradient in the Piedmont region of the southeastern United States. We surveyed for owls by broadcasting conspecific calls to solicit response and by passively recording at survey sites using autonomous recording units. Detection/nondetection data were collected during the breeding season and analyzed within an occupancy framework to investigate patterns of habitat association in our region, while allowing for imperfect detection of owls. Average tree height was the best predictor of Barred Owl occupancy across a development gradient, regardless of forest coverage. We did not find Barred Owl occupancy to decline with increasing impervious surface density. Our research implies that developed landscapes containing mature urban trees can support breeding populations of Barred Owls.


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