The quantification of shifts in bird distributions in response to climate change provides an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the processes that influence species persistence. We used data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) to document changes in the distributional limits of the western Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) from 1967 to 2008. We used logistic regression to model presence probability (p) as a function of longitude, latitude, and year. We modeled a linear trend in logit(p) through time with slope and intercept modeled as a double Fourier series of longitude and latitude. We found that the western Burrowing Owl has experienced an intriguing southward shift in the northern half of its breeding range, contrary to what is predicted by most species niche models and what has been observed for many other species in North America. The breeding range of the Burrowing Owl has been shrinking near its northern, western, and eastern edges. Our model detected the population declines that were observed in California and eastern Washington, in locations where maps based on route-specific estimating equations had predicted significant population increases. We suggest that the northern boundary of the breeding distribution of the western Burrowing Owl has contracted southward and the southern boundary of the species' breeding distribution has expanded southward into areas of northern Mexico that were formerly used only by wintering migrants.

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