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Radio telemetry of Owls in Melghat

Loss of habitat is one of the main threats faced by most species today and in case of small and endemic populations, this can have serious implications ranging from local to global extinction. In order to better protect the species, it is essential to understand their ecological requirements in areas with varying levels of protection. Since 2017 we have been carrying out long-term study on the ecological co-variates of the Forest Owlet Athene blewitii and other small sympatric owls namely, the Spotted Owlet Athene brama, Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum, Indian Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena and the larger owls, namely the Barn owl Tyto alba, Brown Fish owl Ketupa zeyolensis, Indian Eagle Owl Bubo bengalensis and the Mottled Wood Owl Strix ocellate. in Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. Since eight different owl species are utilizing the same resource pool for foraging, nesting, and roosting, it is likely that their niches may have an overlap, enabling different species to co-exist.

To gain better understanding of spatial and temporal use by the owls and to examine how far do different owl species travel for foraging, nesting, roosting and extent of home range during the breeding season and out side the breeding season. To gain an accurate understanding of the habitat use and movement patterns of owls, it is essential to track their locations. Radio telemetry is an immensely useful tool in studying spatial ecology, energetics, physiology and behavior of free ranging animals and can give accurate information on species distribution, mortality rates, habitat -use and home-range that is most useful for determining endangerment status of species at international, national and regional scale (Kenward 1985, Nicholls and Fuller 1987, Balksely et al. 1992, Sunde and Blostad 2004, Cooke 2008)

We have radio-tagged individuals of different owl species in the study area and are tracking their movement to unravel their habitat requirements in Chourakund and Harisal Range in Melghat Tiger Reserve. The ultimate goal of our ongoing studies is to establish long-term ecological monitoring of owls in the country and develop conservation strategies for protection of owls and their habitat. Our endeavor in this direction has been supported by Raptor Research and Conservation Foundation (RRCF), Mumbai, Maharashtra Forest Department and Melghat Tiger Reserve.

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