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PLoS One. 2017 Apr 11;12(4):e0175597. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175597. eCollection 2017.

Factors influencing territorial occupancy and reproductive success in a Eurasian Eagle-owl (Bubo bubo) population.

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Departamento de Ecología e Hidrología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Murcia, Murcia, Spain.
Bonelli's Eagle Study and Conservation Group, Murcia, Spain.


Modelling territorial occupancy and reproductive success is a key issue for better understanding the population dynamics of territorial species. This study aimed to investigate these ecological processes in a Eurasian Eagle-owl (Bubo bubo) population in south-eastern Spain during a seven-year period. A multi-season, multi-state modelling approach was followed to estimate the probabilities of occupancy and reproductive success in relation to previous state, time and habitat covariates, and accounting for imperfect detection. The best estimated models showed past breeding success in the territories to be the most important factor determining a high probability of reoccupation and reproductive success in the following year. In addition, alternative occupancy models suggested the positive influence of crops on the probability of territory occupation. By contrast, the best reproductive model revealed strong interannual variations in the rates of breeding success, which may be related to changes in the abundance of the European Rabbit, the main prey of the Eurasian Eagle-owl. Our models also estimated the probabilities of detecting the presence of owls in a given territory and the probability of detecting evidence of successful reproduction. Estimated detection probabilities were high throughout the breeding season, decreasing in time for unsuccessful breeders but increasing for successful breeders. The probability of detecting reproductive success increased with time, being close to one in the last survey. These results suggest that reproduction failure in the early stages of the breeding season is a determinant factor in the probability of detecting occupancy and reproductive success.

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