Boreal Owls (Aegolius funereus) rely on mature forests and, consequently, are negatively affected by timber harvesting strategies that alter the composition and structure of these forests. We tested an existing Boreal Owl habitat suitability index (HSI) model created using data from across the species' North American breeding distribution, plus a modified Newfoundland version that incorporated local data. We assessed the applicability of these models to a population on the periphery of the species' North American range in Newfoundland, Canada. We also conducted habitat composition analyses and evaluated the Boreal Owl HSI model values associated with forest cover projections under three different forest harvesting scenarios. Overall output from both HSI models indicated low levels of suitability for locations across the study area. Long-term persistence in Newfoundland demonstrates that suitable habitat for Boreal Owls exists, but what constitutes suitable habitat for populations in other parts of North America may differ from that in our study area. Boreal Owls in Newfoundland occupied locations with a greater proportion of disturbed cover, and lesser proportions of deciduous and mixed coniferous and deciduous stands ≥60 yr old, compared to what was available in the surrounding region, as measured in randomly selected plots. Whereas Boreal Owl habitat use in Newfoundland was similar to that described for other populations, the limited use of deciduous and mixed stands was distinct. Forward projection modeling of forest cover indicated that there were no differences in the overall suitability of habitat available to Boreal Owls under the three harvesting scenarios. Our study highlights the importance of adjusting forest management strategies to account for differences in habitat use among populations.
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Vol. 50 • No. 4