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California Burrowing Owl Survey

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  • Maggie Rufo
    I learned of this through owlpages.com and thought people on this group might be interested. Maggie Rufo Novato, CA Hungry Owl Project www.hungryowl.org Copied
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2006
      I learned of this through owlpages.com and thought people on this
      group might be interested.

      Maggie Rufo
      Novato, CA
      Hungry Owl Project

      Copied from http://www.birdpop.org/burrowing.htm
      (This page is currently under development; please check back soon for
      additional information)

      The Burrowing Owl, a California Species of Special Concern, is
      declining across much of the state, presumably in response to loss of
      habitat to urban development, ground squirrel control efforts, and
      intensive agriculture practices. In the early 1990's, The Institute
      for Bird Populations (IBP) coordinated a state-wide, volunteer-based
      survey to assess Burrowing Owl distribution and abundance throughout
      the entire breeding range of the species in California west of the
      Great Basin and desert areas. With the help of numerous dedicated
      volunteers and volunteer coordinators working primarily through
      Audubon Society chapters and other birding groups, we were able to
      census over 700 5km by 5km survey blocks throughout the state, and to
      provide regional and statewide population estimates. The information
      we gathered has been an important resource for Burrowing Owl
      conservation efforts in California, and has been widely used and
      cited by government agencies and conservation-oriented non-
      governmental organizations.

      We are currently gearing up to coordinate another statewide Burrowing
      Owl survey, beginning in spring 2006. Thirteen years after the
      completion of our first statewide survey, this two-year effort comes
      at a critical juncture, when the State and other stakeholders badly
      need updated information for use in formulating a comprehensive
      statewide conservation strategy to safeguard the species across its
      range in California. Conducting another statewide survey will enable
      us to address the following questions:

      a) Where specifically are the state's Burrowing Owls today? Up-to-
      date information on the locations of breeding pairs is critical for
      identifying important stakeholders, and carefully targeting future
      conservation efforts toward the places where they will do the most

      b) What is the status of Burrowing Owl populations in the Great Basin
      and desert regions of the state, areas that were not included in our
      early 1990s census? What fraction of the current statewide population
      resides in these areas? This information will provide a more complete
      assessment of the current status of the species in the state, and
      also provide a baseline for assessing future change in the Great
      Basin and desert regions.

      c) How has the statewide population changed since 1993? How has the
      statewide distribution of the species changed, and what have been the
      trajectories of the various sub-populations in the state's
      constituent regions?


      We have previously delineated the Burrowing Owl's California range
      into 11 distinct geographic regions, and then subdivided each region
      into 5-km by 5-km census blocks. We will select a random sampling of
      census blocks within each region, and then augment the sample with
      any additional blocks in the region that are known by local experts
      to host breeding Burrowing Owls, but were not selected as part of the
      random sample. We will then provide local volunteer coordinators with
      maps of selected blocks, data forms, detailed instructions, and other
      survey materials. The coordinators will assign census blocks to local
      volunteers, who will conduct the surveys.

      Surveying a block will involve identifying all patches if suitable
      habitat within the block, and then thoroughly searching those patches
      for Burrowing Owls. The entire area of all the patches needs to be
      searched between dawn and 10am or between 4pm and dusk, when the owls
      are most active. Some blocks will need to be visited multiple times
      to achieve this goal. Surveyors will scan the area for owls, and plot
      the locations of any detections on their maps. For each detection
      location, observers will also provide a count of all owls seen
      (identified to age and sex, if possible), an estimate of the number
      of breeding pairs, and standardized habitat information. Prior to the
      field season, surveyors will be provided with detailed instructions,
      as well as the opportunity to attend a training session with IBP

      Researchers at IBP will then consolidate and analyze the data, and
      disseminate results as widely as we can. By providing our survey
      results to state policymakers, IBP and all the volunteers who make
      this survey possible can contribute greatly to the development of an
      informed, up-to-date statewide conservation plan that we hope will
      safeguard breeding populations of Burrowing Owls throughout

      To see maps of the survey regions for our Burrowing Owl survey, click
      the links below:

      Statewide map

      Survey regions 1-4

      Survey regions 5-7

      Survey regions 8-11


      The statewide Burrowing Owl survey provides a rare opportunity for
      individuals or organizations to make an important contribution to
      science and conservation. Whether you are a professional biologist, a
      seasoned birder, or simply a Burrowing Owl admirer, we urgently need
      your participation in one or more of the following ways:

      -volunteer to coordinate other surveyors in your county or area of
      interest. We are looking for at least one person in each county
      within the species' breeding range to help us recruit and organize
      other volunteers.

      -volunteer to census one or more 5-km by 5-km blocks in spring 2006.
      We need dozens of surveyors, up and down the state, to census one or
      more blocks near their homes, or perhaps farther afield.

      -provide us with information on the locations of Burrowing Owl
      breeding sites in your county or area of interest. We need local
      experts to consolidate and summarize local knowledge of Burrowing Owl
      breeding locations in each county or area of interest.

      ***If you are interested in any of these volunteer opportunities,
      please contact Bob Wilkerson or Rodney Siegel as soon as possible at
      owl@... or 415-663-2051.***
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