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Riparian old-growth forests provide critical nesting and foraging habitat for Blakiston's fish owl Bubo blakistoni in Russia

Jonathan C. Slaghta1 c1 p1, Sergei G. Surmacha2 and R.J. Gutiérreza1

a1 Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA.

a2 Institute of Biology and Soils, Russian Academy of Sciences Far East Branch, Vladivostok, Russia

Abstract

Conservation efforts for Blakiston's fish owl Bubo blakistoni in Russia are limited, partly because habitat use by these rare owls is poorly known. We therefore studied nesting and foraging habitat characteristics of Blakiston's fish owls in Primorye, Russia. We sampled habitat at 14 nest sites, 12 nest stand sites and 13 random sites; we also sampled rivers within 14 fish owl home ranges across our 20,213 km2 study area. We found that large old trees and riparian old-growth forest were the primary characteristics of nest and foraging sites, respectively. Large trees were probably used as nest sites because they have cavities large enough to accommodate these birds. Big trees are also important because they are primary sources of large woody debris in rivers, which enhances suitable habitat for salmon, the owl's primary prey. Based on habitat characteristics, nest sites were correctly distinguished from random sites 74% (Kappa = 0.48) of the time, nest stands from random sites 56% (Kappa = 0.12) of the time, and used sites from available foraging sites 68% (Kappa = 0.36) of the time. The management and conservation of old-growth forests is essential for sustaining this species because they are central to the owls' nesting and foraging behaviour. Moreover, conservation of these forests sustains habitat for many other species.

(Received February 28 2012)

(Revised April 27 2012)

(Accepted June 11 2012)

(Online publication August 06 2013)

Keywords

  • Blakiston's fish owl;
  • Bubo blakistoni ;
  • habitat characteristics;
  • nest sites;
  • old-growth forest;
  • Primorye;
  • riparian;
  • Russia

Correspondence

c1 (Corresponding author) E-mail jslaght@wcs.org

p1 Current address: Wildlife Conservation Society, Russia Program, 17a Aleutskaya St Apt 31, Vladivostok 690090, Russia

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