Understanding long-term patterns of burrow occupancy for the Western Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) is necessary for the conservation of this species, especially in arid, desert ecosystems where burrow occupancy data are lacking. Monthly burrow monitoring was conducted over a 4-year period (1997–2001) in southern Nevada to determine burrow occupancy patterns of Burrowing Owls and to evaluate the effects of burrow type and desert region on burrow occupancy. Burrow occupancy occurred year-round and was most consistent in the Transition region and tended to be lowest in the Mojave Desert region. Peak burrow occupancy occurred during March through May, followed by a gradual decline in occupancy through the summer and fall until January and February, when occupancy was lowest. Occupancy was significantly higher at sites with both culvert and pipe burrows than at sites with earthen burrows in disturbed habitat or earthen burrows in natural habitat. Breeding-season occupancy was not significantly higher in wetter, cooler portions (e.g., Great Basin desert region) of the study area. Results suggest that occupancy is influenced by habitat features—such as suitable burrows in open areas with low vegetation—and climatic regime.
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Vol. 69 • No. 3