Friday, January 30, 2009

Owler mentions concerns about Western Screech-Owls

In Thursday's Seattle Times, self-taught owler and licensed bander Jamie Acker talks about his work on Bainbridge Island. He's studied owl distribution on the island since 1996.

What began as a hobby has led to illuminating findings, including some trends over the past 12 years. Natives of the East Coast, barred owls have been slowly expanding their territory westward. The first individual was reported on Bainbridge in 1992, and Acker counted 86 barreds during the 2008 Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

"People keep asking, 'What's their saturation level?' — but we just don't know," he said. Acker has documented one barred owl continuing to nest even with a greatly reduced territory, as new barred neighbors close in. Though he emphasizes his evidence is only circumstantial, Acker is concerned about how the increase in barred owls might relate to the decline in Western screech owls. Counting 12 screech pairs 12 years ago, he was unable to locate even one individual during the recent Christmas Bird Count.

"This is a common trend among those who do owl research, yet nowhere do we see them being listed as a species of concern," he said. "To me, their numbers are crashing. They are a species we should be watching and caring for."

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