Demographic data on the Little Owl (Athene noctua) in Upper-Kiskunság (Hungary)

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Abstract

This study focused on the clutch size and age-specific apparent survival rate of the Little Owl (Athene noctua) population in Upper-Kiskunság, Hungary. Between May 2005 and April 2017, 640 individuals were captured and ringed in a total of 746 capture-recapture occasions. Artificial nest boxes were installed in the study area, breeding birds and pulli were captured for ringing/recaptured in these boxes (from March to May), or at the close neighbourhood of those (max. 168 m). Jolly-Seber’s open population method was applied to model the survival rate. The candidate model set included models incorporating age, year-effect, and the combination of those. AICc value was used to compare models in a selection approach. The final model was constructed via model averaging based on the models with significant explanatory power. The average number and SD of pullus/breeding pair was 3.78 ± 0.76. The average apparent annual survival rate (which does not differentiate between mortality and permanent emigration) for the period between pullus stage and the time of the first breeding was estimated as 9.47% ± 2.99% SE, whereas the annual survival rate of adults was 82.74% ± 8.46% SE. The effect of sex on the survival rate of adults was not investigated due to female-biased sample, as the probability of capturing females is significantly higher in late spring months. Our experience reveals that during February and March it is possible to capture both sexes in the nest boxes, and it does not influence negatively the breeding success. Based on our results, the population of the Little Owl is stable in Upper-Kiskunság. A slight increase in estimated population size is observable even if we make no difference between mortality and permanent emigration. The high occupancy rate of the installed nest boxes reveals that nest site availability is an important limiting factor in the studied population.

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