Behavioral ecology of Western Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) in northwestern Texas
Chipman, Erica D.
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Western Burrowing Owls are a species of international conservation concern, yet their behavioral responses to urbanization and radio-telemetry are unknown. We monitored breeding male burrowing owls at urbanized and rural sites in 2 areas of northwestern Texas in 2004-05 in separate studies of behavioral responses to urbanization and radio-collars. For the urban behavioral study the activity budgets of urban and rural burrowing owls did not differ significantly for most behaviors, although urban burrowing owls (n = 17) displayed significantly greater vigilance and resting behaviors than did rural owls (n = 10). Other behaviors, including amount of time spent hunting or hunting success, did not show consistent trends by land-use type; instead, there was as much variation between owls as between land-use types. Further research on the behavioral effects of urbanization is needed with larger sample sizes, more locations, and longer duration. For the radio-collared study non-collared owls (n = 6) spent significantly more time being vigilant (P = 0.007) than did radio-collared owls (n = 3) in 2004, who spent significant amounts of time interacting with their collars. In 2005, radio-collared owl (n = 8) behaviors were significantly affected (P < 0.001) by the presence of radio-collars compared to control individuals (n = 4) but not consistently by treatment period (pre-collared vs. collared vs. post-collared periods). Behavioral activity budgets varied considerably among all individuals. Although the owls spent a significant amount of time interacting with their collars, they appeared to habituate to the presence of the collars within a relatively short period (<1 wk), and collars did not affect survivorship or fitness in the short-term.