Degree Granting Department
Environmental Science and Policy
Athene cunicularia floridana, GIS, Geographic information systems, Species of special concern, Avian ecology, Resource selection, Landscape ecology
The full geographic distribution and habitat use of the Florida Burrowing Owl, a state "Species of Special Concern," is not well-understood, particularly in remote, non-urban areas. This thesis aimed to expand and improve knowledge about non-urban burrowing owls. We first compiled databases of historic sighting observations. Fieldwork verified and updated existing breeding observation point records and also yielded new breeding locations. Using a GIS, we characterized observed land use, landcover, relevant soil attributes, projected future land use and managed area status for selected points. We quantified landcover within biologically-determined buffer distances around burrows from our own field-verified records. Using standard resource selection methods, we compared observed and available proportions, calculated selection indices, and determined selection/avoidance for each landcover class. These empirical results were used in combination with expert opinion and literature review to finalize criteria for and map "suitable" landcover. Suitability of relevant soil attributes were also empirically-determined and used to further reduce the overall "suitable" area. The final suitable habitat maps appear to relate well to the overall distribution of known non-urban burrowing owl records and demonstrate that a great deal of potentially-suitable breeding habitat exists throughout Florida's central interior. Improved pasture, the most prevalent landcover class, also appears to be the most strongly selected in this study and may be of high importance to non-urban, breeding burrowing owls. Our results could be useful to wildlife officials managing this species. Recommendations include improving surveys and conservation efforts in non-urban areas and enhancing cooperation with landowners, particularly ranchers, as success on private lands seems critical to the long-term persistence of this species.
Scholar Commons Citation
Mueller, Mark S., "Distribution and habitat characterization of the Florida burrowing owl in non-urban areas" (2006). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.