Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) have experienced significant population declines over the last 100 years in parts of the United States and Canada. This decline may be associated with increasing urbanization and land-cover change; however, owls can occupy urbanized environments. To determine habitat selection in the southeast valley of Phoenix, Arizona, we conducted visual surveys for owls during summer 2011 and measured microhabitat and landscape characteristics in 23 agricultural fields (fields) and along 15 canal right-of-ways (trails). We estimated occupancy rate and detectability using Program MARK. We identified microhabitat selection to relate owl occurrence to landscape variables. Occupancy rate was 32% in both fields and trails and owls had greater detectability along trails. Burrowing Owl occurrence was similar in fields with varying agricultural stages (from undisturbed to harvested) and moisture conditions. Owl occupancy was positively associated with soil type and canal water presence, and occupancy decreased when developed landscape cover (e.g., roads and buildings) increased. These findings suggest that Burrowing Owls are able to live in urbanized environments below 40% developed land cover provided that water and suitable soils are available.
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