Hey, You. Barred Owl.




All this fright and scatter about how the barred owl's taking over our Pacific Northwest woods, and nobody bothered to ask the barred owl directly about it? As in, "hey barred owl, how many of there are you, really, and have you really come to finish off what the "Spotted Owl--It's What's For Dinner" folks started?" (ouch. kidding. sort of.)

Well, results of a USGS study -- a mini study, part of a larger, nearly concluded four-year project on barred owl-spotted owl competition -- published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management suggest that sometimes it really is best to speak to the subject in its own language instead of some preferred-bird's lingo. From the news release:

"The purpose of this new research was to determine the degree to which barred owls were going undetected during calling surveys directed at spotted owls. Most previous information on barred owls in the Pacific Northwest was documented during calling surveys of spotted owls that used recorded spotted owl calls to elicit responses from both species at night. The new findings, however, are based on survey methods developed specifically for barred owls."

According to the lead scientist in the study, Dave Wiens of the USGS, on survey nights where researchers used spotted owl calls, only about half the barred owls present responded. When they used barred owl calls, two-thirds of the barred owls present responded.

So, heh heh, yes, they are in fact here to kick some s-owl booty. Actually, barred owls have been expanding west from the east coast for the past hundred years or so, said Wiens by phone today. "But their populations have really taken hold in the Pacific Northwest within the past 20 years or so," he said.

It's no laughing matter: The spotted owl's a protected species. Feathers may fly.

But maybe you want to nurture a little barred-owl love on the sly. If so, check out its vocalizations. They're far more intricate than the spotted owl's. Not that fancy speech matters.

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