Nonbreeding raptors are vulnerable to many anthropogenic changes such as habitat fragmentation and increasing risk of collision (e.g., with wind turbines, powerlines, or vehicles). One aspect of habitat quality for raptors during winter has received comparably less attention: the role of colonial burrowing rodents such as prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) as a reliable food source, and the effects of widespread reduction in prairie dog abundance and availability to nonbreeding raptors. We used a historical dataset (1998–2002) of roadside surveys for raptors and prairie dogs in the Southern and Central Great Plains, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, USA, and the Mexican state of Chihuahua, to provide the most spatially and temporally expansive analysis to date of the potential role of prairie dogs in influencing presence and abundance of raptors. We assessed patterns of co-occurrence among raptors and prairie dogs and modeled the response of selected species to weather, latitude, grassland cover, and prairie dog presence and abundance at multiple spatial scales. During the study period, we detected 19 species of raptors and identified nine raptor species that co-occurred with prairie dogs more than expected by chance. We also found evidence that occurrence of prairie dogs was related to presence and/or abundance of Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis), Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and Rough-legged Hawks (B. lagopus). Our work underscores the association of prairie dogs with many wintering raptor species, especially Ferruginous Hawks and Golden Eagles, and indicates that prairie dogs may also be an important resource for Rough-legged Hawks and Bald Eagles during the nonbreeding season.

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