Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 2365–2381 | Cite as

Landscape-scale distribution and density of raptor populations wintering in anthropogenic-dominated desert landscapes

  • Adam E. DuerrEmail author
  • Tricia A. Miller
  • Kerri L. Cornell Duerr
  • Michael J. Lanzone
  • Amy Fesnock
  • Todd E. Katzner
Original Paper


Anthropogenic development has great potential to affect fragile desert environments. Large-scale development of renewable energy infrastructure is planned for many desert ecosystems. Development plans should account for anthropogenic effects to distributions and abundance of rare or sensitive wildlife; however, baseline data on abundance and distribution of such wildlife are often lacking. We surveyed for predatory birds in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts of southern California, USA, in an area designated for protection under the “Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan”, to determine how these birds are distributed across the landscape and how this distribution is affected by existing development. We developed species-specific models of resight probability to adjust estimates of abundance and density of each individual common species. Second, we developed combined-species models of resight probability for common and rare species so that we could make use of sparse data on the latter. We determined that many common species, such as red-tailed hawks, loggerhead shrikes, and especially common ravens, are associated with human development and likely subsidized by human activity. Species-specific and combined-species models of resight probability performed similarly, although the former model type provided higher quality information. Comparing abundance estimates with past surveys in the Mojave Desert suggests numbers of predatory birds associated with human development have increased while other sensitive species not associated with development have decreased. This approach gave us information beyond what we would have collected by focusing either on common or rare species, thus it provides a low-cost framework for others conducting surveys in similar desert environments outside of California.


Anthropogenic development Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) Habitat associations Mojave Desert Predatory birds Raptors Sonoran Desert Surveys 



The Bureau of Land Management, California State Office provided funding. This work is Scientific Article No. 3239 of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Morgantown. We thank T. Esque and two anonymous reviewers for their comments that greatly helped to improve this manuscript. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

10531_2015_916_MOESM1_ESM.docx (42 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 110 kb)


  1. Averill-Murray RC, Darst CR, Strout N, Wong M (2013) Conserving population linkages for the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Herpetol Conserv Biol 8:1–15Google Scholar
  2. Barrows CW, Allen MF, Rotenberry JT (2006) Boundary processes between a desert sand dune community and an encroaching suburban landscape. Biol Conserv 131:486–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boal CW, Estabrook TS, Duerr AE (2003) Productivity and breeding habitat of loggerhead shrikes in a southwestern urban environment. Southwest Nat 48:557–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boarman WI, Patten MA, Camp RJ, Collis SJ (2006) Ecology of a population of subsidized predators: common ravens in the central Mojave Desert, California. J Arid Environ 67(Supplement):248–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brownie C, Hines JE, Nichols JD, Pollock KH, Hestbeck JB (1993) Capture-recapture studies for multiple strata including non-Markovian transitions. Biometrics 49:1173–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buckland ST, Burnham KP, Augustin NH (1997) Model selection: an integral part of inference. Biometrics 53:603–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Coates PS, Connelly JW, Delehanty DJ (2008) Predators of Greater Sage-Grouse nests identified by video monitoring. J Field Ornithol 79:421–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Commission for Environmental Cooperation (1997) Ecoregions of North America, level i, ii, and iii maps. [] from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, Oregon, USA and at [] from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), Montréal (Québec), Canada. Accessed 28 July 2014
  10. Concepción ED, Moretti M, Altermatt F, Nobis MP, Obrist MK (2015) Impacts of urbanisation on biodiversity: the role of species mobility, degree of specialisation and spatial scale. Oikos. doi: 10.1111/oik.02166 Google Scholar
  11. Cornell K, Donovan T (2010) Effects of spatial habitat heterogeneity on habitat selection and annual fecundity for a migratory forest songbird. Landsc Ecol 25:109–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis FW, Stoms DM, Hollander AD, Thomas KA, Stine PA, Odion D, Borchert MI, Thorne JH, Gray MV, Walker RE, Warner K, Graae J (1998) The California gap analysis project—final report. University of California, Santa BarbaraGoogle Scholar
  13. DUDEK, ICF International (2011) Preliminary conservation strategy desert renewable energy conservation plan (DRECP). Aspen Environmental Group, SacramentoGoogle Scholar
  14. Esque TC, Nussear KE, Drake KK, Walde AD, Berry KH, Averill-Murray RC, Woodman AP, Boarman WI, Medica PA, Mack J, Heaton JS (2010) Effects of subsidized predators, resource variability, and human population density on desert tortoise populations in the Mojave Desert, USA. Endan Species Res 12:167–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fujiwara M, Caswell H (2002) A general approach to temporary emigration in mark-recapture analysis. Ecology 83:3266–3275Google Scholar
  16. Hoffman SW, Smith JP (2003) Population trends of migratory raptors in western North America, 1977–2001. Condor 105:397–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Inman RD, Esque TC, Nussear KE, Leitner P, Matocq MD, Weisberg PJ, Dilts TE, Vandergast AG (2013) Is there room for all of us? Renewable energy and Xerospermophilus mohavensis. Endan Species Res 20:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Knight RL, Kawashima JY (1993) Responses of raven and red-tailed hawk populations to linear right-of-ways. J Wildl Manag 57:266–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Knight RL, Camp RJ, Boarman WI, Knight HAL (1999) Predatory bird populations in the east Mojave Desert, California. Gt Basin Nat 59:331–338Google Scholar
  20. Kristan WB, Boarman WI (2003) Spatial pattern of risk of common raven predation on desert tortoises. Ecology 84:2432–2443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kristan WB, Boarman WI (2007) Effects of anthropogenic developments on common raven nesting biology in the west Mojave Desert. Ecol Appl 17:1703–1713CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Kristan WB, Boarman WI, Crayon JJ (2004) Diet composition of common ravens across the urban-wildland interface of the west Mojave Desert. Wildl Soc Bull 32:244–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kuvlesky WP Jr, Brennan LA, Morrison ML, Boydston KK, Ballard BM, Bryant FC (2007) Wind energy development and wildlife conservation: challenges and opportunities. J Wildl Manag 71:2487–2498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lebreton JD, Hines JE, Pradel R, Nichols JD, Spendelow JA (2003) Estimation by capture-recapture of recruitment and dispersal over several sites. Oikos 101:253–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lennartz S, Bax T, Aycrigg J, Davidson A, Reid M, Congalton R (2008) Final report on land cover mapping methods for California map zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, and 13. University of Idaho, Sanborn Map Co, PortlandGoogle Scholar
  26. Leu M, Hanser SE, Knick ST (2008) The human footprint in the west: a large-scale analysis of anthropogenic impacts. Ecol Appl 18:1119–1139CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Lovich JE, Bainbridge D (1999) Anthropogenic degradation of the southern California desert ecosystem and prospects for natural recovery and restoration. Environ Manag 24:309–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Olson DM, Dinerstein E (1998) The global 2000: a representation approach to conserving the earth’s most biologically valuable ecoregions. Conerv Biol 12:502–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Peterson FF (1981) Landforms of the basin and range province defined for soil survey. Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 28. University of Nevada, RenoGoogle Scholar
  30. Prather PR, Messmer TA (2010) Raptor and corvid response to power distribution line perch deterrents in Utah. J Wildl Manag 74:796–800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Renewable Energy Action Team, (California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service) (2010) Best management practices and guidance manual: Desert renewable energy projects. California Energy Commission, Siting, Transmission and Environmental Protection Division. Accessed 10 July 2014
  32. Rodríguez-Estrella R, Donázar JA, Hiraldo F (1998) Raptors as indicators of environmental change in the scrub habitat of Baja California Sur, Mexico. Conserv Biol 12:921–925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sergio F, Newton IAN, Marchesi L, Pedrini P (2006) Ecologically justified charisma: preservation of top predators delivers biodiversity conservation. J Appl Ecol 43:1049–1055CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. The DRECP Independent Science Panel (2012) Independent science review for the california desert renewable energy conservation plan (DRECP). Prepared for Renewable Energy Action Team. Accessed 10 July 2014Google Scholar
  35. Turner RM (1994) Mohave desertscrub. In: Brown DE (ed) Biotic Communities Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp 157–168Google Scholar
  36. Turner RM, Brown DE (1994) Sonoran desertscrub. In: Brown DE (ed) Biotic Communities Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp 181–221Google Scholar
  37. US Census Bureau (2011) 2011 TIGER/Line Shapefiles [machine-readable data files]. Accessed: 1 Jan 2012Google Scholar
  38. US Deparment of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (2014) Supplement to the environmental assessment: predator damage management in southern Idaho. US Department of Agriculture, BoiseGoogle Scholar
  39. Vandergast A, Inman R, Barr K, Nussear K, Esque T, Hathaway S, Wood D, Medica P, Breinholt J, Stephen C, Gottscho A, Marks S, Jennings W, Fisher R (2013) Evolutionary hotspots in the Mojave Desert. Diversity 5:293–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. White GC, Burnham KP (1999) Program mark: survival estimation from populations of marked animals. Bird Study 46:120–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (out side the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam E. Duerr
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tricia A. Miller
    • 1
  • Kerri L. Cornell Duerr
    • 2
  • Michael J. Lanzone
    • 3
  • Amy Fesnock
    • 4
  • Todd E. Katzner
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Division of Forestry and Natural ResourcesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentWestminster CollegeNew WilmingtonUSA
  3. 3.Cellular Tracking Technologies, LLCSomersetUSA
  4. 4.Bureau of Land Management, California State OfficeSacramentoUSA
  5. 5.United States Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceTimber and Watershed LaboratoryParsonsUSA
  6. 6.U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science CenterBoiseUSA

Personalised recommendations