eWestern BirdsThe Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists
Vol. 45, No. 3
Western Field Ornithologists
Persistence of the Boreal Owl in New Mexico: 1987–2012
Dale W. Stahlecker, Edward P. MacKerrow, Hira A. Walker, Jonathan P. Batkin, and Bernard R. Foy
ABSTRACT: To better understand the status of the Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) at the southern extremity of its North American range, we conducted audio playback surveys between late July and mid-October 2012 at seven of the nine northern New Mexico locations where the species had been documented between 1987 and 1993, as well as four additional locations 10–15 km from sites of previous detections. All survey locations were in subalpine conifer forest at elevations >3000 m above sea level. In total, we called in at least 12 individuals (6 adults and 6 juveniles) at or near six of the seven historical locations and at least three adults at two new locations. Of the eight locations with confirmed Boreal Owl detections, two were in the San Juan Mountains, two were in the Jemez Mountains, and four were in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Recently fledged owls were seen at both San Juan Mountain sites and photo-documented at one site. Adult owls were photo-documented at the other six locations. Detection of Boreal Owls at six of seven historical locations confirmed the species’ long-term residency in New Mexico’s three northern mountain ranges. While Boreal Owls have likely been present in New Mexico since the Pleistocene, climate change appears likely to threaten their high-elevation habitat, particularly since more frequent and larger fires are predicted in the future as the forest dries.