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Population density of the western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) in Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus) colonies in northeastern Mexico

Ruiz Ayma, Gabriel, Olalla Kerstupp, Alina, Macías Duarte, Alberto, Guzmán Velasco, Antonio, González Rojas, JoséI.
BMC ecology 2016 v.16 no.1 pp. 38
Athene cunicularia, Cynomys mexicanus, adults, breeding, ecoregions, habitat destruction, habitats, migratory behavior, population density, surveys, Chihuahuan Desert, Mexico
BACKGROUND: The western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) occurs throughout western North America in various habitats such as desert, short-grass prairie and shrub-steppe, among others, where the main threat for this species is habitat loss. Range-wide declines have prompted a need for reliable estimates of its populations in Mexico, where the size of resident and migratory populations remain unknown. RESULTS: Our objective was to estimate the abundance and density of breeding western burrowing owl populations in Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus) colonies in two sites located within the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion in the states of Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Line transect surveys were conducted from February to April of 2010 and 2011. Fifty 60 ha transects were analyzed using distance sampling to estimate owl and Mexican prairie dog populations. We estimated a population of 2026 owls (95 % CI 1756–2336) in 2010 and 2015 owls (95 % CI 1573–2317) in 2011 across 50 Mexican prairie dog colonies (20,529 ha). CONCLUSIONS: The results represent the first systematic attempt to provide reliable evidence related to the size of the adult owl populations, within the largest and best preserved Mexican prairie dog colonies in Mexico.