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Habitat selection and conservation status of the endemic Ninox hawk-owl on Cebu, Philippines


The largely deforested island of Cebu, Philippines, hosts a forest-dwelling hawk-owl identified in the literature as Ninox philippensis spilonota but which is in fact a Cebu island endemic species, soon to be named. To determine the current distribution and habitat requirements of this hawk-owl, the five largest of 11 remaining forest patches on Cebu were surveyed between March and June 2011, involving 64 post-sunset 500-m walked transects with playback and habitat assessments. Radio-telemetry studies were also conducted on 10 owls but only for 3–5 days per owl as they removed the transmitters. A total of 52 owls were located across all five forests (at 16 sites two owls responded together to playback) but only the largest forest, Alcoy, contained enough transects for analyses of habitat in relation to owl distribution. Alcoy stands on steep-sided hills and some planting of exotic species occurs within it. Owls were detected in forest interior, forest edge and forest-plantation mix in Alcoy, and on ridges and in gullies despite lower tree densities and greater proximity to clearings in the gullies. However, parts of Alcoy experience strong winds, and owl occupancy decreased significantly with increasing wind speed. Home ranges for the 10 radio-tagged owls were estimated to cover ∼10 ha, although given the short tracking periods this may be an underestimate. Suitable forest studied covers roughly 1,670 ha, with six unstudied forests totalling 250 ha, so assuming a pair every 10 ha would give a tentative global population estimate of ∼ 200 pairs of Cebu Hawk-owls, and even fewer if home ranges are larger than estimated. This, coupled with continuing habitat degradation, triggers the IUCN Red List category ‘Endangered’. Tree cavities suitable for nests may be limiting, and nest-box provision could be explored, provided this does not increase predator pressure on other rare species.

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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
  • URL: /core/journals/bird-conservation-international
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