Saturday, February 23, 2008

Maine's Great Gray Owl

This Feb. 22 letter in The Boston Globe cites the Great Gray Owl in Jackson, Maine, that later died.

After five days of uninterrupted viewing that interfered with the hunting and feeding habits of a bird rarely seen here, the exhausted and starving owl had to be taken off by an avian rescue team, the equivalent of EMTs. He died two days later.
Rehabilitators from Avian Haven captured the bird after the property owner said it was hit by a car. The rehabbers reported on Jan. 30 that "the bird is extremely emaciated. This may be due at least in part to a heavy parasite load, but the property owner feels that the bird was harassed by some visitors."

After the owl's death, the Avian Haven staff reported no evidence of a collision, a heavy parasitic load, anemia, signs of a respiratory disease, and evidence that the bird was in the advanced stages of starvation. "None of these are acute conditions; the bird could have been already on a fatal trajectory when he arrived in Jackson. Whether any such trajectory could have been altered by different circumstances over the last week is impossible to say."

My question: How much effect, if any, do incidents like this influence property owners' and birders' willingness to share unusual birds' locations and provide access?


Blogger Rick Wright said...

I have no doubt that excessive attention can interfere with a bird's activities, sometimes to an extreme extent; but I'd sure like to see somebody devise the study that could measure this.

You'll remember a celebrated case from Arizona a few years ago in which a vagrant passerine was found dead and high horses were immediately mounted--only to be quietly let out to pasture again when the necropsy determined that the bird had died not from an overdose of Austrian glass, but from a blow delivered by a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Hard as it is to know what really happens in any given case, it's easy enough to see the effects: these landowners at least will have learned not to let anybody know when a big, slow, easily visible bird appears at their place again. What ever happened to that sensible taboo on publicizing the wintering locations of northern owls?


February 23, 2008 3:45 PM  
Blogger Owlman said...

Owls are such great birds to see for both the avid bird watcher and the casual observer. Because they're are so tough to find there tends to be a mob mentality when people do report them. It saddens me because they can be such great PR birds for our birding community. I'm really on the fence when it comes to this topic and like Rick I would like to see some data to support or refute the impact that observers have on owls.

BTW, here is a post on LEO's in Chicago that may be thought for thought:

February 25, 2008 9:33 AM  

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