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Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl rescue and captive breeding research
Southwest Region, July 1, 2006
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Ongoing drought in southern Arizona has resulted in very low survival of hatch-year cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls (pygmy-owl) over the past four years.  Lack of cover and reduced prey availabliliy has resulted in reduced fitness of nestling and fledgling pygmy-owls and increased predation.  In 2003 and 2004, no hatch-year pygmy-owls monitored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD)as part of ongoing research survived past dispersal.  Environmental conditions continued to worsen in 2006, and researchers predicted low survival, if any, of the hatch-year pygmy-owls this year.  In order to salvage the reproductive output of pygmy-owls in 2006, AGFD, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) captured and brought into captivity nine hatch-year pygmy-owls and one adult male pygmy-owl (a total of 5 males and 5 females).  In addition to conserving these hatch-year pygmy-owls, having them in captivity provides an opportunity to research the feasibillity of captive breeding pygmy-owls in order to augment the extremely low population numbers in Arizona.  The USFWS, in conjunction with the AGFD and the Pygmy-owl Recovery Team, have been developing a pygmy-owl population augmentation plan over the past three years.  Captive breeding was identified as a priority action within this plan.  We worked cooperatively with the USFWS Migratory Birds Permit Office, AGFD, and Wild At Heart (an owl rehabilitation center in the Phoenix area) to obtain the necessary permits to begin researching the feasibility of pygmy-owl captive breeding.  Personnel in the USFWS permitting program were particularly helpful in making sure the appropriate permits were obtained under a very quick turn around.  Wild At Heart is currently holding the ten pygmy-owls and will initiate attempts to captive breed them in the spring of 2007.  This is an important step towards the conservation of this species in the southwestern United States.   

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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