Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 December 2002
The endemic Seychelles Scops-owl Otus insularis is a Critically Endangered restricted range species currently only recorded in the upland forest of Mahé, the largest (152 km2) and highest (903 m) island in the granitic Seychelles. We studied the response of colour-ringed individuals to playback of conspecific calls, to determine factors affecting playback reaction, to monitor behaviour and to assess the reliability of current monitoring techniques. Playback of the territorial waugh call was conducted at fixed points (c. 200 m apart) every month along a total transect length of 8.4 km between April 1999 and May 2001. On the basis of responses and movements of marked individuals we identified 12 territories and noted their boundaries. Mean territory length was 2.92 points (approximately 400 m), equivalent to a conservative estimated territory size of c. 12–16 ha. Males were more frequently detected than females/pairs. The probability of detection (males vs. females/pairs) was 0.87 vs. 0.50 on territory; 0.65 vs. 0.26 at fixed points within territories; and 0.58 vs. 0.22 at fixed points along the transect. There was some significant seasonal variation in detection rates at fixed points within territories for both males and pairs, and in general there was a low probability of detecting individuals around June-August and a high probability of detection around April and, to a lesser degree, October. Response times and owl-recorder distances were not influenced by moon phase or time of playback. This study provides the first baseline data on individual responses to the systematic repeated use of playback in Seychelles Scops-owl. We discuss the implications for current monitoring and its application to other similar Otus species.
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