The Eastern Screech Owl: Life History, Ecology, and Behavior in the Suburbs and Countryside

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Texas A&M University Press, 2008 - Nature - 302 pages
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The eastern screech owl, widespread over the eastern half of North America and noticeably tolerant of human activity, is one of America's most familiar birds. Residing naturally in wooded environs with tree cavities, this owl lives well in suburbia and can be found nesting in mailboxes, porch columns, and purple martin houses.

Based on a twenty-five-year study, biologist Frederick R. Gehlbach tells the life story of the eastern screech owl, focusing on case studies of suburban and rural study plots in Central Texas. This is the first thorough study of major life-history, behavioral, and ecological features of the species. Indeed, it is the first concurrent, comparative study of an urban and a rural population of any New World animal.

Told in a personal voice, the story of these birds will interest all who have not lost touch with their ancestral world. However, Gehlbach has also included quantitative data and analysis of interest to ecologists, wildlife biologists, and ornithologists. Photographs (including color shots of the gray and rufous phases), figures, and tables provide further detail.

Gehlbach's investigations have been those of not only an academic ecologist, but a suburbanite curious about his natural surroundings. The result is a model of research on species population dynamics and adaptation, yielding an emerging picture of what the eastern screech owl needs for successful coexistence with human neighbors.
 

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Contents

On Studying Screech Owls An Introduction
3
Explorations 196775
4
Confirmatory Study 197691
10
Statistical Concerns
14
What Follows
17
Landscapes The Owls Select Habitat
19
Climate and Weather
20
Woody Vegetation
22
Fledglings
123
Dispersal
129
Vocalizations Clues to the Night
135
Songs
136
Hoots and Barks
141
Screeches
143
BillClaps and Hisses
144
Juvenile Development
145

Nesting Environments
23
NestSite Selection
28
RoostSite Choices
32
Food Supplies and Predation Why Owls Are Mobbed
39
The Food Niche
40
Food Type Seasonality
47
Interspecific Competition
51
Predatory Tactics
52
Hunting Periodicity
56
Mobbing
59
Adult Weight Coloration and Molt Basic Constraints
65
The Size Dimorphism Question
66
Weight Dynamics
68
Color Polymorphism
71
Annual Molt
77
Eggs and Incubation Perilous Times
81
Replacement Nests
84
Clutches
87
Egg Size
91
EggLaying Interval
93
Incubation
94
Hatching Efficiency
97
Chicks and Fledglings Greater Investments
103
Hatching
104
Brooding and Nest Microclimate
107
Parental Responsibilities
111
Growth and Death
114
NestCavity Symbioses
120
Lifetime Reproduction Efforts of a Few
149
Age and Size
151
Nest Sites and Mates
156
Recruitment and Inheritance
158
Population Structure and Flux Density Dependence in Action
167
Productivity
170
Use of Space
175
Densities and Cycles
177
The Suburban Advantage A Final Synthesis
185
Suburban Amenities
187
Preadaptations of Eastern Screech Owls
188
Connections
189
Prescription for the Future
193
Epilogue
198
Field Notes
201
Climate
225
Habitat Features
227
Stored Foods
229
Food Supplies
233
Mobbing Birds
236
Nestling Development
238
Lifetime Reproduction
241
Life Tables
243
Common and Scientific Names
244
Notes
249
References
277
Index
298
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

FREDERICK R. GEHLBACH is a professor of biology at Baylor University, where he teaches general biology and ecology. His research has focused on vertebrate and vascular plant ecology and conservation in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico. He has published more than seventy scientific and popular articles and books, including Mountain Islands and Desert Seas: A Natural History of the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands (Texas A&M University Press, 1981).









 

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