How Spotted and Barred Owls Share the Forest

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Over the past century barred owls have been expanding their range westward, encroaching into the old-forest habitat of their sister species, the federally threatened northern spotted owl. Population declines of spotted owls were originally attributed to habitat loss.

Despite conservation efforts, numbers continue to wane largely because of competition with barred owls, which are larger, more aggressive, and now occur in greater numbers than spotted owls. USGS scientists and others sought to better understand the three-dimensional structural elements of forests that may facilitate resource partitioning and coexistence between the two owls. Analysis of telemetry data from 41 spotted and 38 barred owls in conjunction with LiDAR-based measurements of forest structure revealed that spotted owls used areas with lower tree cover, a more developed understory, and steeper slope. This is the first evidence of fine-scale partitioning of habitat between the two species, which can assist conservation strategies for northern spotted owls.

Click here to see the U.S. Forest Service News Release on this paper.

Jenkins, J.M., Lesmeister, D.B., Wiens, J.D., Kane, J.T., Kane, V.R., Verschuyl, J.P., 2019, Three-dimensional partitioning of resources by congeneric forest predators with recent sympatry: Scientific Reports, v. 9, no. 6036, p. 1-10, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-42426-0.

 

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