The status and population changes of the Little Owl (Athene noctua) in the south of Békés county (Hungary)

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Abstract

Between 1995 and 2017 we carried out surveys on the Little Owl (Athene noctua) in Battonya town and Kevermes village in southern Békés county. In 2007 and 2017 we have surveyed nesting sites in the village and the outer areas of Kevermes. The population of the species was estimated at the beginning of the breeding season and in early summer with field observations. Between 1995 and 2017 we collected road-kill data within the entire administrative area of Battonya. We registered each fiund road-killed Little Owl. We found 64 road-kills in Battonya. The number of casualties of the species has increased unambiguously over the studied 23 years. Most of the road-killed Little Owls (53 individuals, 82.81% of the total) were found in summer (June–August). 51 road-killed individuals (79.69%) were noted in the outer areas of Battonya, and 13 specimens (20.31%) in the town. Our results highlight that vehicle traffic is an important mortality factor for the population. The Little Owl has a large population in this landscape, and the population size has increased over the last decade. In the background of this increase is most likely the rise in the number of abandoned houses because of the unfavourable economic and social situation in the region. The local pairs nested only on attics and roof structures in Kevermes, often in residential buildings. The buildings of modern agriculture do not meet the needs of the species. A large part of the population breeds in the village, because with the disappearance of the farms the breeding pairs of the outer areas of Kevermes have disappeared. However, in Battonya the species regularly breeds in the outer areas of the town. Finally, we also collected some ethnoecological data on how local people relate to the species.

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