Raptors face threats such as habitat modification, climate change, and environmental pollutants in many parts of the western USA, where rapid human population growth exacerbates such pressures. However, information about distribution of raptor nests at broad spatial scales that could inform conservation efforts is lacking. To provide a contemporary estimate of nest distribution of four raptor species of special conservation concern (Bald Eagle [Haliaeetus leucocephalus], Ferruginous Hawk [Buteo regalis], Golden Eagle [Aquila chrysaetos], and Prairie Falcon [Falco mexicanus]) throughout Colorado, we used a statewide database of raptor nesting locations to inform species distribution models for monitoring and management efforts. We used generalized linear models to identify the relationship between nest locations and explanatory covariates relating to land cover, temperature, topography, and prey distribution. We investigated the effect of different methods for selecting the sample of locations available to raptors, comparing four selection frames: sampling from the observed locations of the target-group (i.e., other raptor nests), sampling from within a spatial buffer around observed locations, sampling from outside of the same buffer, or complete random sampling of the background locations without respect to observations. Out-of-sample validation techniques indicated strong predictive accuracy of our models. Each raptor species was best represented by a different one of the four approaches to sample available locations, refuting our expectation that models accounting for bias would perform better than those that did not. Our findings were consistent with generally understood habitat associations of these species. These models can be used to identify hot spots with high relative probability of use by breeding raptors and to inform future monitoring practices that use a standardized, stratified sampling design.

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