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1 October 2002 Annual Migration Density and Stopover Patterns of Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus)
David M. Whalen, Bryan D. Watts
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Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus) exhibit large fluctuations in annual number of individuals migrating in eastern United States. Underlying large differences in the magnitude of the migration may be important density-dependent effects on body condition and stopover patterns. We investigated such effects using data from saw-whet owls that were trapped and banded during autumn migration at the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula (near Cape Charles, Virginia) from 1994 to 2000. Irruptive migration events occurred in 1995 and 1999 when 1,002 and 700 owls were captured, respectively. Capture totals ranged from 22 to 105 owls during five nonirruptive years. Irruptive migration years were dominated by immature owls (82% of captures) and were characterized by low recapture rates (13%) and shorter minimum stopover lengths (median = 5 nights) for all owls. Body masses and body-condition index scores were significantly lower for both immature and adult age classes during years when owl density was very high. During such years, a smaller percentage of owls elected to stopover and, among those that did, individuals in good condition departed sooner than individuals in poor condition. Conversely, during nonirruptive years, adults constituted 67% of captures, recapture rates were nearly 3× higher (35%), and stopover lengths were twice as long (median = 10 nights). Recapture rates were significantly higher for adults (43%) than for immature owls (23%) and initial body condition of adults was positively correlated with their length of stopover. During light migration years, conditions may be conducive for extended residency, particularly for adult owls in good condition. Our results suggest that density-dependence is an important mechanism driving migration and stopover patterns of saw-whet owls.

David M. Whalen and Bryan D. Watts "Annual Migration Density and Stopover Patterns of Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus)," The Auk 119(4), 1154-1161, (1 October 2002).[1154:AMDASP]2.0.CO;2
Received: 27 March 2001; Accepted: 7 August 2002; Published: 1 October 2002
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