Conservation action on protecting the endemic owls in the Lianhuashan Mountains in Gansu, China

Yun Fang

During our work on the conservation biology of the Chinese grouse at the Lianhuashan Mountains, we got the new discoveries of two endemic owls, one is the Sichuan Wood Owl (Strix davidi), the other is the Gansu subspecies of the Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus beickianus). Up to know, no nest of the Sichuan Wood Owl has been found, only two nests of the endemic Boreal Owl were found by us (in the holes of big trees), people knows very little about these birds. From the knowledge of sibling species in Europe, both owls make nests in the holes of old and big trees, and their reproduction depend on existence of old and big trees. According to the forestry procedures in Gansu, most old and big trees were selectively cut in past decades. China has stopped cutting the virgin forest in Gansu and Sichuan since 1999; the owls have a good future. However, as presently most areas had already been cut, with very less old and big trees left, we are afraid of the owls cannot endure their worst time by themselves. We have not done special census on the owls, however, during our work during 1999-2001, we have the feelings that their occurrence being less and their populations must be very endangered. So we think we urgently need to help these owls. This proposal is an urgent action on distributing nest boxes in the Lianhuashan Mountains to save these owls.In early spring of 2002, we will make census of the owls, the nest boxes will be set up first at the areas where the owls found. We will also distribute the nest boxes at the areas where the habitat is good for the birds. Preliminary we plan to make 50 nest boxes for each species of the owls. Afterwards, we will check the nest boxes to see how many are taken by the birds; we will also make records of their reproduction success.As we have worked in the Lianhuashan Mountains for years, and we have the satellite images showing the distribution of the conifer forest. From our census results, we could evaluate the endangered status of these two owls in our study area. Up to know, there is very little biological information about the birds, we think our action will not only help the owls directly on reproduction, the density information and biological results are also important to protect them in the future and in other areas of China.