Mexican Spotted Owl Population Dynamics: Influence of Climatic Variation on Survival and Reproduction

Mark E. Seamans, R. J. Gutiérrez, Christopher A. May
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 8/10/2023

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Understanding the mechanisms causing temporal variability in demographic parameters is essential to understanding fluctuations in populations.

As part of a long-term demographic study, we evaluated influence of climate on Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) annual survival and reproduction in two study areas, one in Arizona and one in New Mexico. Spotted Owl survival in New Mexico and reproductive output in both study areas were positively related to total amounts of precipitation from the previous year, previous winter, or monsoon season.

For both study areas, temporal process variation in reproductive output (CV[R] = 51.2 and 75.2% for Arizona and New Mexico, respectively) was greater than that for survival (CV[ϕ] = 12.9 and 7.1% for Arizona and New Mexico, respectively). Precipitation from the previous year explained 73% of σ̂ 2 temporal reproductive output for Arizona owls and precipitation from the previous monsoon explained 42% of σ̂ 2temporal in reproductive output for New Mexico owls. Precipitation from the previous monsoon season explained 53% of σ̂ 2temporal in Arizona owl survival and precipitation from the previous winter explained 56% of σ̂ 2temporal in New Mexico owl survival.

The two populations of Spotted Owls we studied appeared to have the same life-history strategy hypothesized for a population of Northern Spotted Owls (S. o. caurina), although the Mexican subspecies apparently responded quite differently to climatic variation.


Mark E. Seamans and others, Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix Occidentalis) Population Dynamics: Influence of Climatic Variation on Survival and Reproduction, The Auk, Volume 119, Issue 2, 1 April 2002, Pages 321–334,

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