Two Bird Flaps

Bald_EagleAs we reported on the return of snowy owls to the US last week, another part of the story was unfolding. According to news reports, one of the snowies flew into the engine of an airplane and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered airport personnel to shoot any other snowy owls on sight. Two of the owls were shot on Dec. 7.

Read the news reports here:Mother Nature Network (most detailed)
Business Insider
NY Daily News

An uproar ensued, with objections lodged by NYC Audubon and The owls will now be trapped and moved away from the airport.
Read the update in The New York Times, here

Snowy owls aren’t the only raptors gaining attention from their possible deaths this week. Last week the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced new regulations that would extend wind farm’s golden and bald eagle take permits for another 30 years. The original permits were for five years. Among the conservation groups protesting the new regulation are the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.

Read the Los Angeles Times story on the controversy here.
Read the US Fish and Wildlife Service press release here.
An Associated Press article in the Seattle Times.

Photo: Bald eagle, Dave Menke, USFWS

Snowy Owls Return

Snowy owl at Port Mahon - photo by Chris Bennett-DNRECIt’s another snowy owl year. The last time a snowy owl influx made news was the winter of 2011/2012. Not so long ago.

Read this blog post from the Vermont Center for Ecological Studies,
this blog post from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, featuring eBird data,
or this press release from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Photo: Great snowy owl at Port Mahon – November 29, 2013. Photo: Chris Bennett/DNREC

Troublesome Creatures

spotted owlEfforts around the country to remove troublesome creatures — whether invasive or otherwise — have been met with a variety of reactions. In all cases the creatures are being removed because they are harming an ecosystem.

No one seems to mind that California Fish and Wildlife Department is removing South African clawed frogs from Golden Gate Park. The frogs are not native to the area, they completely destroy the habitats they invade, and they carry a fungus that is deadly to native amphibians. Read about the recovery effort in Bay Nature.

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources would like there to be fewer invasive mute swans. Mute swans are aggressive and don’t allow the native trumpeter swans or loons to nest. (They also have it in for ducks and geese.) Plus, they eat so many wetland plants that they can destroy wetlands. Oiling eggs has been too costly and too slow, so the department will begin to kill mute swans. Michigan Live has published several articles on the subject.
Here’s Michigan Live on why.
Here’s the plan in one county.
And here the reaction to the plan in that county.

And then there are barred owls. They’ve long been identified as a threat to northern spotted owl recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Spotted owls rely on old-growth forests. Barred owls are not so picky, and have moved into the spotted owls’ turf as the habitat has become more variable, because the old-growth forests were cut. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to start killing barred owls to try to improve matters for the spotted owl. The Oregonian did two stories on the situation. This one several years ago. And this one now that the program has begun.
There’s been no shortage of news coverage. See a lot of it here.

Photo: Spotted owl, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Delaware Studies Owls; Montana Builds Nest

Barn_owlDelaware Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists began banding barn owls at the beginning of June. Since the annual banding project began in 1996, the biologists have banded 598 barn owls, a division press release says.

The bands let the scientists collect data on the birds’ life span, home range, nest site fidelity, and migratory patterns, and also allow them to estimate population size. Birds banded in Delaware have also been spotted in Maryland and New Jersey.

Read the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife press release here.
See the action on the Delaware DNREC YouTube channel, here.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks teamed up with the Audubon Society to rebuild a great horned owl nest in a state park this season. Great horned owls don’t build their own nests, the article in the Seattle Post-Intellingencer explained. The nest the owls had been using for years was falling apart.

Normally, a great horned owl pair would move on to a more freshly built nest, at this point, but visitors enjoyed have the owls nesting in the park, so a new nest was built. The Associated Press article, which ran in the Seattle paper, reports that the owls approved of the new nest. They raised three owlets in it this season.

Read the AP story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here.

Photo: Barn owl by Dr.Thomas G. Barnes/University of Kentucky, used courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Global Owl Project

burrowing owlsWhen I saw that The New York Times had published an article on the Global Owl Project, I put that news at the top of my list. A new global effort to study owls that was robust enough to attract the attention of the Gray Lady is something you would want to know about, I thought.

The article itself is more of a round-up of cool owl facts. That’s interesting enough, I suppose. But really, it included almost nothing on the Global Owl Project.

Read The New York Times article here.

But what about the Global Owl Project? A glance at its website shows that it has been around for several years. In fact, the site says that the project was supposed to last five years and wrap up in 2008. Six papers on owls were published under its aegis. (Including a recently-uploaded report on how to build artificial burrows for burrowing owls, which looks helpful.)

Get info on the project from its briefing paper (here).

Photo: Burrowing owls by Lee Karney, used courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service