Short-term response of breeding Barred Owls to forestry in a boreal mixedwood forest landscape

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  • Abstract: Forestry and other activities are increasing in the boreal mixedwood of Alberta, with a concomitant decrease in older forest. The Barred Owl (Strix varia) is an old-growth indicator species in some jurisdictions in North America. Hence, we radio-tagged Barred Owls in boreal mixedwood in Alberta to determine whether harvesting influenced habitat selection. We used three spatial scales: nest sites, i.e., nest tree and adjacent area of 11.7 m radius around nests, nesting territory of 1000 m radius around nests, and home range locations within 2000 m radius of the home range center. Barred Owls nested primarily in balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) snags > 34 cm dbh and nest trees were surrounded by large, > 34 cm dbh, balsam poplar trees and snags. Nesting territories contained a variety of habitats including young < 80-yr-old, deciduous-dominated stands, old deciduous and coniferous-dominated stands, treed bogs, and recent clear-cuts. However, when compared to available habitat in the study area, they were more likely to contain old conifer-dominated stands and recent cutblocks. We assumed this is because all of the recent harvest occurred in old stands, habitat preferred by the owls. When compared with random sites, locations used for foraging and roosting at the home range scale were more likely to be in young deciduous-dominated stands, old conifer-dominated stands and cutblocks > 30 yr old, and less likely to occur in old deciduous-dominated stands and recent cutblocks. Hence, although recent clearcuts occurred in territories, birds avoided these microhabitats during foraging. To meet the breeding requirements of Barred Owls in managed forests, 10-20 ha patches of old deciduous and mixedwood forest containing large Populus snags or trees should be maintained. In our study area, nest trees had a minimum dbh of 34 cm. Although cut areas were incorporated into home ranges, the amount logged was low, i.e., 7%, in our area. Hence more research is required to determine harvest levels tolerated by owls over the long term.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 2006 Olsen, Hannon, & Court. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Olsen, B. T., Hannon, S. J., & Court, G. S. (2006). Short-term response of breeding Barred Owls to forestry in a boreal mixedwood forest landscape. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 1(3), article 1.