Graduation Date

Spring 2024

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources, option Wildlife

Committee Chair Name

Matthew Johnson

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Mark Colwell

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Ho Yi Wan

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff


Barn owl, Vineyard, Napa Valley, Reproductive success, Habitat ecology, Adaptive breeding habitat selection, Nest box, Working landscape, Individual quality

Subject Categories



The hypothesis of adaptive breeding habitat selection proposes congruence between the evolved selection of habitats and fitness components such as reproductive success. However, mismatches between habitat selection and observed fitness outcomes are not unusual and can arise for multiple reasons. Variation in individual qualities of animals has also been found to affect reproduction and survival. I examined associations between barn owl nest box selection, reproductive output, and plumage characteristics previously shown to correspond to individual quality. I found that barn owls selected tall nest boxes made of wood, mounted high off the ground, and with increased proportions of grassland around the nest box at the landscape level, and decreased proportions of forest at the local level. I then found several lines of evidence consistent with adaptive breeding habitat selection: observed frequency of nest box occupancy and predicted probability of nest box occupancy were both positively correlated with reproductive success, variables associated with nest box selection also predicted reproductive success reasonably well, and the most important variable influencing both barn owl nest box selection and reproductive success was the proportion of grasslands at the landscape level. I did not find that the quality of individual owls, as measured by size and plumage characteristics, was strongly associated with variation in reproductive success, though my sample size was small. Overall, results of this study provide evidence that nest box selection is adaptive for barn owls in this study system.

Citation Style

Journal of Wildlife Management


Thesis/Project Location


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