Relative magnitude of two Northern Hawk-Owl (Surnia ulula) irruptions to southern Norway: comparison of citizen data and survey data
Keywords:Hawk-Owl autumn density, citizen science, irruption, survey data
Cover photo: Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula. Photo: Terje Lislevand.
The Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula occurs as an irruptive species to southern parts of Fennoscandia. Large numbers of individuals were recorded in the autumns of 2016 and 2020 but assessing the relative magnitude of irruptions is challenging. Systematic surveys allow direct comparisons but are time-consuming and will therefore be limited in time and space. Citizen data may provide large amounts of information for wide areas but may in particular suffer from spatial biases in the observation effort of birdwatchers. I compared the 2016 and 2020 irruptions of Northern Hawk-Owls to southern Norway, and found that citizen data indicated that numbers in 2016 were ca. 2–3 times larger than in 2020. However, the relative magnitude differed geographically, and the 2016 irruption was larger in western and southern counties, whereas the difference was smaller in eastern counties (in particular in Innlandet county). Systematic surveys in eastern regions (Oslo and Akershus) indicated that Northern Hawk-Owl densities were similar in the two irruption years. Overall, Northern Hawk-Owls were recorded at the same rate (approximately one owl per 16 km), and density was estimated to be 0.09–0.18 individuals/km2 in 2016 and 0.08–0.13 individuals/km2 in 2020. Thus, citizen data and survey data from the same geographical region concurred. However, due to the geographical variation in relative irruption size and spatial variation in observer density and biases in observation effort, the overall difference between the two years is difficult to assess. The 2016 irruption was likely larger than the 2020 irruption, but the difference was probably smaller than suggested by citizen data.
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