The INSTITUTE for BIRD POPULATIONS
CALIFORNIA SPOTTED OWLS AND WILDFIRE
 
NORTHERN SPOTTED OWLS

California Spotted Owls and Fire banner photo

Wildfire is a paramount issue for Sierra Nevada land managers. Historical logging and fire exclusion has likely contributed to declines in old-forest dependent species, including California Spotted Owl. More recently, concern has grown that high-severity, stand-replacing fires, which appear to have become more common, may constitute another threat to the species.

Research is needed to better understand how Spotted Owls respond to wildfire so that post-fire landscapes can be managed to give the species the best chance of persisting. In past work, we radio-tracked adult owls in territories that were burned by a large wildfire. The owls continued to occupy partially burned territories several years after fire and preferentially forage in severely burned patches. We also assessed daytime roosts during the non-breeding season to study how ranges and habitat use by birds with partially burned territories shifted during the winter.

A third component of this project was examining whether breeding-season diet and home-range size of California Spotted Owls differed between our burned study site and other unburned study sites in the Sierra Nevada. We collected and analyzed regurgitated pellets at roosting locations in our burned site to quantify the diet of owls whose territories were affected by forest fire. Finally, we also conducted an analysis of data from across large swaths of the Sierra Nevada to assess patterns in Spotted Owl occupancy after fire.

More recently we have teamed up with Yosemite National Park biologists to study occupancy patterns in recently burned forests.

For more information about IBP’s work with Spotted Owls and post-fire landscapes, please contact Rodney Siegel.

Photo Credits: Top of Page, National Park Service; Right Column, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
 

In addition to studying the ecology of California Spotted Owl, IBP has conducted conservation-relevant research on Northern Spotted Owl.

We partnered with personnel at North Cascades National Park in Washington to survey the dwindling population of the species in the Park, including at remote wilderness areas many days' hike from the nearest road. We also assisted the Park with habitat suitability modeling and developing management plans for nesting areas.

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SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

Peer-reviewed Publications

Bond, M.L., D.E. Lee, R.B. Siegel, and M.W. Tingley. 2013. Diet and home range size of California Spotted Owls in a burned forest. Western Birds 44:114-126. PDF

Lee, D.E., M.L. Bond, and R.B. Siegel. 2012. Dynamics of breeding-season site occupancy of the California Spotted Owl in burned forests. The Condor 114:792-802. PDF

Bond, M.L. D.E. Lee, R.B. Siegel, and J.P. Ward. 2010. Habitat use and selection by California Spotted Owls in a post-fire landscape. The Journal of Wildlife Management 73:1116-1124. PDF

Bond, M.L., D.E. Lee, and R.B. Siegel. 2010. Winter movements by California Spotted Owls in a burned landscape. Western Birds 41:174-180. PDF

Other Publications and Reports

Siegel R.B., R.C. Kuntz II, R.L. Wilkerson, K.D. Kuhlman, and M.D. Toshack. 2012. Surveying for Spotted Owls in the Upper Skagit watershed of North Cascades National Park Complex, 2009-2010. Natural Resource Technical Report. NPS/NOCA/NRTR—2012/597. National Park Service. Fort Collins, Colorado. Published Report-2186188. PDF

Siegel, R.B, R.C. Kuntz II, R.L. Wilkerson, and K.D. Kuhlman. 2010. Surveying for Spotted Owls in the northeastern portion of North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 2009-2010: report for the 2009 field season. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NCCN/NRTR/2010/334. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. PDF

Siegel, R.B., K.E. Jablonski, M.N. Scholer, R.C. Kuntz II, and R.L. Wilkerson. 2008. Surveying Spotted Owls on the east slope of North Cascades National Park Service Complex: report for the 2007 and 2008 field seasons. Report to North Cascades National Park Service Complex. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NCCN/NRTR—2008/114. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. PDF

Wilkerson, R.L., and R.B. Siegel. 2007. Interpreting the Northwest Forest Plan’s Northern Spotted Owl habitat suitability model for use in North Cascades National Park. Report to North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The Institute for Bird Populations, Point Reyes Station, CA.

The INSTITUTE for BIRD POPULATIONS