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    The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) is a federally-threatened subspecies in the United States associated with late-successional forests. In mesic forests it nests primarily in tree cavities, but also uses various types of external platform nests in drier forests. We describe 1717 northern spotted owl nests in 16 different tree species in five study areas in Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, USA. The vast majority of nests (87%) were in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees, except on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, where nests were about equally abundant in Douglas-fir, western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) trees. Distribution of nests was 57.9% in top cavities of trees with broken tops, 20.3% in side cavities of hollow tree trunks, and 21.8% on external platforms of trees. Platforms were most common in the two driest study areas in the Eastern Cascades Physiographic Province, Washington (89% of nests), and the Klamath Province, Oregon (32%). The vast majority (89%) of nests were in trees with intact or declining crowns. Nests in dead trees were most common on the Olympic Peninsula. Nest trees with top and side cavities were larger and much more prevalent in study areas where annual precipitation was highest (Olympic Peninsula, Oregon Coast Range). Large nest cavities and platforms used by northern spotted owls occur almost exclusively in old forest. Managing for the retention of such forests and for their replacement is a significant challenge for land managers, especially in the face of climate change and an increasing human population, but will likely be required for the persistence of viable populations of northern spotted owls.

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    Wilk, Randall J.; Lesmeister, Damon B.; Forsman, Eric D. 2018. Nest trees of northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) in Washington and Oregon, USA. PLOS ONE. 13(5): e0197887-.


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    Spotted owl, nesting habitat.

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