The cryptic plumage and nocturnal nature of the great gray owl (Strix nebulosa) make it difficult to study in its densely forested habitat. We investigated whether the vocalizations of individual great gray owls could be distinguished and used as a tool for population survey and monitoring. We recorded 312 territorial calls produced by 14 male and 11 female great gray owls between March and July 2006 and 2007 in the Sierra Nevada range of California, USA. We recorded 19 owls on multiple occasions within a season and 8 owls between seasons. We extracted 17 frequency and 15 temporal variables from the sonograms of each call. Discriminant analysis selected 9 variables and classified 92.8% of calls to the correct individual within a season; 71.4% of calls were classified to the correct individual between seasons. Our results indicate that territorial calls could be used to monitor individual great gray owls for both short- and long-term studies. Vocal individuality could be useful as a noninvasive method to improve census estimates and yield information on site fidelity, turnover rates, seasonal movements, and behavioral traits of great gray owls.
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Vol. 73 • No. 5