Northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) have been studied intensively since their listing as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1990. Studies of spotted owl site occupancy have used various binary response measures, but most of these studies have made the assumption that detectability is perfect, or at least high and not variable. Further, previous studies did not consider temporal variation in site occupancy. We used relatively new methods for open population modeling of site occupancy that incorporated imperfect and variable detectability of spotted owls and allowed modeling of temporal variation in site occupancy, extinction, and colonization probabilities. We also examined the effects of barred owl (S. varia) presence on these parameters. We used spotted owl survey data from 1990 to 2002 for 3 study areas in Oregon, USA, and we used program MARK to develop and analyze site occupancy models. We found per visit detection probabilities averaged <0.70 and were highly variable among study years and study areas. Site occupancy probabilities for owl pairs declined greatly on 1 study area and slightly on the other 2 areas. For all owls, including singles and pairs, site occupancy was mostly stable through time. Barred owl presence had a negative effect on spotted owl detection probabilities, and it had either a positive effect on local-extinction probabilities or a negative effect on colonization probabilities. We conclude that further analyses of spotted owls must account for imperfect and variable detectability and barred owl presence to properly interpret results. Further, because barred owl presence is increasing within the range of northern spotted owls, we expect to see further declines in the proportion of sites occupied by spotted owls.
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Vol. 69 • No. 3