Influence of Landscape Variables on the Diet of Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) in the Texas Panhandle



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Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) were once prolific on the Great Plains of North America. As keystone species, many organisms rely upon prairie dogs. One species in particular is the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), which nests in the burrows created by prairie dogs. Burrowing owls live in a wide variety of habitats and are opportunistic predators, consuming a diverse array of prey items. There are many factors that may influence the diet of burrowing owls. I evaluated the influence of land use, as well as season and precipitation on the diet of burrowing owls. Regurgitated pellets (n = 654) were collected from 6 prairie dog towns from April-October of 2014 and 2015 in the Texas Panhandle. Canonical correspondence analyses as well as multiple regression analyses were used to determine the association of landscape variables, season, and precipitation on the diet of burrowing owls. Burrowing owls in this study consumed mostly invertebrates, with short-horned grasshoppers (Acrididae) being the most significant prey item. Season had the greatest influence on the diet of burrowing owls, followed by class-level and landscape-level variables, and then precipitation. This information may be useful for future management plans dealing with relocation and reintroduction, by allowing managers to focus on areas that provide a suitable mosaic of patchiness for these birds.



Burrowing owls, Athene cunicularia, Great Plains, Prairie dogs, Cynomys ludovicianus, Landscape variables, Seasonal diet, Canonical Correspondence Analysis


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