Date of Award:

8-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

Kimberly Sullivan

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Becky Williams

Third Advisor:

Julie Young

Abstract

Development and climate change in the sagebrush habitats are causing population declines of North American hawks and eagles. For these species, understanding the landscape features that are preferred for nesting and the prey they consume in sagebrush habitats are important in developing conservation plans. Specifically, we know little of the preferred nest-sites and diet of Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis) and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) many locales. In our study, we determined the landscape characteristics associated with nest sites for these two raptor species in the Uintah Basin, UT to predict where nests may occur in our study area. We found that slope, elevation, distance to nearest oil and gas wells, geology, and facing south were the most important variables in characterizing Golden Eagle nest-sites. Elevation, slope, vegetation type, and distance to nearest oil and gas wells were the most important variables in characterizing Ferruginous Hawk nest-sites. In addition, we looked at the diets of Golden Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks, and Northern Goshawks in the Uinta Basin, UT using a genetic analysis method novel to raptors. We found species consistent with previous diet studies and detected prey items not previously reported, including the Western Whiptail (Aspidocelis tigris), Domestic Cow (Bos Taurus), Domestic Pig (Sus scrofa), and Rock Bass (Amboplites rupestris) within Ferruginous Hawk samples. Results from our study can provide managers with tools to better survey for nest-sites and to provide an alternative method of diet analysis to provide insight into prey species important to these raptors.

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