The conversion of coastal prairie to farmland in southern Texas has drastically reduced the number of available animal burrows, thereby forcing western Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) wintering in southern Texas to use nontraditional roost sites such as roadside culverts. We studied factors influencing the selection of road culverts as roost sites by Burrowing Owls by comparing characteristics of 34 occupied and 100 unoccupied culverts. All occupied culverts were in agricultural habitat. Culverts with small diameters (≤16 cm) and those with an east–west orientation were occupied by Burrowing Owls in greater proportions than were culverts with larger diameters or different orientations. Occupied culverts were also associated with absence of grass, absence of woody vegetation, and presence of crop stubble. Our results provide guidelines for making drainage culverts more attractive to Burrowing Owls, but use of roadside culverts by Burrowing Owls may expose the owls to an increased risk of mortality from vehicle collisions. To avoid this dilemma, our guidelines for culverts could also be adapted as criteria for installation of artificial burrows in habitats suitable for wintering Burrowing Owls.
Williford, Damon; Woodin, Marc C.; and Skoruppa, Mary Kay
"Factors influencing selection of road culverts as winter roost sites by Western Burrowing Owls,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 69
, Article 1.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol69/iss2/1