African owls are relatively little known and studying them is difficult due to negative effects of cultural beliefs and consumptive uses of owls. Over a 5-yr period from 2004–08, we studied the breeding ecology of 13 pairs of Mackinder's Eagle-Owls (Bubo capensis mackinderi), a subspecies of the Cape Eagle-Owl (B. capensis), inhabiting a densely populated farming community in central Kenya. Mean owl density was 0.24 pairs/km2 and mean nearest neighbor distance averaged over all years was 1.9 km. Most nests (65%) were located in a cave or on a covered ledge, and mean nest site elevation was 2191 m asl. Nests were located close to farms and grasslands, but far from forests. Initiation of breeding was associated with rainfall patterns. Mean breeding success was 51% and reproductive rate was 1.36 young fledged per successful pair. Increased reproductive success was associated with breeding after the long rainy season, nesting on cliffs or covered ledges, and nesting close to grasslands and human habitation. The majority (59%) of recorded owl deaths were caused by human activities and poisoning was the most common source of mortality. Compared to other populations of Bubo spp., the birds in our study area had a high breeding density but a low reproductive output. Human-induced mortality may be negatively affecting productivity in this population.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4