A studio for bird study

Tag: boise

Barred Owl – Out of Range but Seemingly Comfortable

by Bryce W. Robinson


Around the turn of the year a Barred Owl – Strix varia, was reported in Boise, Idaho. The owl has been seen regularly for the past month. Barred Owls occur in Boise once every few years as vagrants from somewhere unknown. This Barred Owl showed up in a city park on the east side of town, only about a mile from the foothills. The peculiar part is that the park is adjacent to the Boise River, a large wooded area, and acres of open field. Instead of occupying these more wild, less human areas, the owl has chosen the back yards adjacent to the park to roost. The bird hunts the park edges and greens at night, apparently having loads of success. This behavior is a testament to the hardness of this species against human disturbance. It is one of those few species that seems to do well with the world we are creating.

I took the video above a few days ago just before sunset. The owl was alert, no longer snoozing. The most interesting thing about the video is the birds behavior coupled with the anthropogenic noise. In the clip you can hear a man playing fetch with his dog, someone closing a house door, and many other human sounds typical of urban living.

Why is this Barred Owl able to tolerate a lifestyle like this, yet other species are so sensitive to disturbance? The Barred Owl’s closest North American relative, the Spotted Owl, is certainly having a hard time with the way we are changing its world. These types of questions are worth entertaining as more and more we change the world around us, better for some but certainly not for all.



A Communal Roost of the Great Horned Owl

by Bryce W. Robinson


I’d like to share this video of a solitary roosting Great Horned Owl to introduce a story and celebrate a career goal accomplished for both Caitlin Davis, and myself.

In December 2012, Caitlin and I were conducting Golden Eagle surveys in the west desert of Utah. One evening on our survey route near the border of Nevada and Great Basin National Park, we came upon a roosting pair of Great Horned Owls. These owls sat in a small string of trees about 30 m in length. Soon after we discovered the roosting pair, we noticed an additional four owls in the same tree line. A total of six owls sat together in close proximity, and soon after we counted the birds, I knew the significance of what we had found.

Because I knew that Great Horned Owls are extremely territorial, I looked into the literature hoping to find any reports of similar roosting behavior. After what seemed to be an exhaustive search, I had found no reports of any communal roosting behavior for the Great Horned Owl, or any other Bubo species.

I discussed the idea of reporting the findings with Steve Slater, Shawn Hawks, and Markus Mika at HawkWatch International. They were supportive of the idea, so with little hesitation I wrote a short report of the roost and submitted it for publication to the Journal of Raptor Research.

The report was accepted, and has now been published in the latest issue of the JRR. Caitlin and I are extremely grateful to everyone who helped us get the word out in the proper fashion by talking out ideas, and revising the manuscript. It was a fun process, and I look forward to repeating it again in the future.

Read the article here:

Robinson, B.W. and C. M.  Davis. 2014. A communal roosting of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). Journal of Raptor Research 48(1) 88-89

Female Varied Thrush

by Bryce W. Robinson


This winter, at least two Varied Thrush have taken refuge in a very wild city park in Boise, Idaho. This park, Kathryn Albertson Park, is my go to spot for birding close to home. There have been a great collection of birds there this winter, including White-throated Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, Evening Grosbeak, Both species of Waxwing, and the list goes on.

I’ve made it a personal goal to strengthen my video archive. Given the regularity of my sightings of both Varied Thrush and White-throated Sparrow, I’ve decided to focus on filming these birds while I have the opportunity.

Filming such secretive skulkers is tough. I’ve spent some time trying, botched multiple opportunities, and ended up empty handed time and again. Yesterday, the active White-throated Sparrow didn’t cooperate as usual, but a female Varied Thrush gave me the opportunity for the clip I’ve been hoping for. Although these clips are short, and at times anticlimactic, they are my goal. My goal is to create an opportunity for birders to get to know particular species a little better through more exposure to their plumage, posture, and behaviors, and re-live some birding moments through those short glimpses that make our day. These clips seem simple, but with most birds a decent video requires loads of persistence, patience, a little skill, and a moment of luck. The end result is so exciting for me, and something I plan to keep working on for the rest of my life.

Wild Boise: Western Screech Owl

by Bryce W. Robinson


The other night, a bird flew in front of my car as I drove through the Boise State University Campus. I immediately pulled the car over, grabbed my camera, found the bird, and recorded. It was too dark, so I did what I could with the camera, cranked the ISO, dropped the aperture, and lowered the shutter speed. This video shows the abilities of the Canon 7D at its absolute limits, in the dark. Not the best, but I’ll take it.

We’ve entered a very active time for owls. These birds are in the midst of pair bonding, preparing for the breeding season. They are very active and vocal, so take the time just after sunset, and you’re sure to find an owl or two.