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Vocal individuality as a potential long-term monitoring tool for Western Screech-owls, Megascops kennicottii

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Recent studies suggest that individually distinctive vocalizations found in many avian species can be used in population monitoring. In this study we assessed whether vocal identification of male Western Screech-owls (Megascops kennicottii (Elliot, 1867)) was possible, and if it could be applied as a long-term monitoring tool. Recordings were collected between 2001 and 2003 from 28 territories on southern and central Vancouver Island. As a quantitative descriptor of the calls, a total of 17 variables were measured from each of 1125 calls. A discriminant function analysis resulted in 92.3% of calls being correctly classified to individual territories within one season and 87.3% of calls in a cross-validation of the model. Variables that showed the greatest discriminant ability included length of call, internote distance between first note and second note, and number of notes per call. Of the 14 territories that had owl calls recorded over 2 years, 4 appeared to be occupied by a different individual in the 2nd year, 7 had calls that were consistent between years, and 3 had calls that were ambiguously classified between years. Our results suggest that Western Screech-owl calls have enough individually recognizable characteristics to aid in the tracking of individuals both within and between years, allowing for long-term monitoring of individuals.

Des études récentes laissent croire que les vocalises individuelles distinctes qui existent chez plusieurs espèces d'oiseaux pourraient servir à la surveillance des populations. Nous évaluations dans notre étude la possibilité d'identifier par leurs vocalises les mâles du petit-duc des montagnes (Megascops kennicottii (Elliot, 1867)) et d'utiliser ces vocalises comme outil de surveillance à long terme. Des enregistrements ont été réalisés de 2001 à 2003 dans 28 territoires dans le sud et le centre de l'île de Vancouver. Pour décrire quantitativement ces vocalises, nous avons mesuré un ensemble de 17 variables dans chacun des 1125 appels. Une analyse des fonctions discriminantes associe correctement 92,3 % des appels faits dans une même saison à leur territoire correspondant et 87,3 % des appels dans un essai de validation croisée du modèle. Les variables qui offrent la plus grande valeur discriminante sont, entre autres, la longueur de l'appel, l’intervalle entre les deux premières notes et le nombre de notes par appel. Parmi les 14 territoires dans lesquels des appels du petit-duc ont été enregistrés au cours de 2 années, 4 sites semblent être occupés par un individu différent la 2ième année, 7 ont des appels qui concordent pendant les 2 années et 3 ont des classifications ambiguës d'une année à l'autre. Nos résultats indiquent que les appels des petits-ducs possèdent suffisamment de caractéristiques individuelles identifiables pour servir à suivre les individus au cours d'une année et d'une année à l'autre, ce qui rend possible une surveillance à long terme des individus.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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