Sampling owls in a reliable and standardized way is not easy given their nocturnal habits. Playback is a widely employed technique to survey owls. We assessed the influence of wind speed, temperature, air humidity, and moon phase on the response rate of the Tropical Screech Owl Megascops choliba and the Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia in southeast Brazil. Tropical Screech Owl occurs in scrubland and wooded habitats, whereas the Burrowing Owl inhabits open grasslands to grassland savannah. Sixteen survey points were systematically distributed in four different landscape types, ranging from open grassland to woodland savannah. Field work was conducted in 2004 from June to December, the reproductive season of the two owl species. Our study design consisted of eight field expeditions of five nights each; four expeditions occurred under full moon and four under new moon conditions. At each survey station, we performed a broadcast/listening sequence involving several calls and vocalizations from each species, starting with Tropical Screech Owl (the smaller species). From 112 sample periods for each species within their respective preferred habitats, we obtained 54 responses from Tropical Screech Owl (48% response rate) and 30 responses (27% response rate) from Burrowing Owl. We found that the response rate of Tropical Screech Owl increased under conditions of higher temperature and air humidity, while the response rate of Burrowing Owl was higher during full moon nights.
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Vol. 97 • No. 4