A studio for bird study

Tag: varia

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.



Northern Spotted Owl- Strix occidentalis caurina

by Bryce W. Robinson

Northern Spotted Owl- Strix occidentalis caurina. 11x15" watercolor on paper.

I’ve never seen a Spotted Owl in person. I’m sure the day will come, whether it be the Mexican Spotted Owl, Californian, or Northern, I’m sure it will be incredible. I’m currently working on a job with a guy named Jeff, who has spent the greater part of the last eight years in northern California working with the Northern Spotted Owl. He tells endless stories of his nightly wanderings amidst the redwood giants of Humboldt County. I love telling my own stories of wilderness wanderings, but even more, I love listening to others.

The other night over some beer, Jeff showed me a number of videos he took of Spotted Owls. I couldn’t believe the footage, and the narrative he provided with each clip. It made me anxious to get out and find the bird. After some time went by, I realized I had to paint an owl for Jeff. I respect his work, and truly envy the time he has spent working with this creature, so the next day I sat and painted the Norhtern Spotted Owl. I gave it to Jeff to thank him for sharing his passion.

Currently the Spotted Owl is facing a new threat. We all know of the controversy between environmentalists and the logging industry about the removal of old growth forest timber so important in the lives of the Spotted Owl, but this new threat is not man. The Barred Owl- Strix varia, has now moved into the territory of the Spotted Owl. As the Barred Owl is more adaptable, and outcompetes the Spotted Owl, concern has risen that the fate of the Spotted Owl is again reaching a critical state. The topic is very complicated, as all things ecological are. Managers are now discussing the possibility of shooting the Barred Owl to eliminate it from the area. Such an ardent management policy is of course highly controversial, and requires a great deal of discussion and contemplation.

I would love to research the topic more thoroughly, and make an actual report and analysis of the issue. I have my own opinion, however I will admit it is not a truly educated opinion. In the future, I will gather some research papers and some background on how the Barred Owl has come to the areas of the Spotted owl, and what I think should be done in attempt to solve the problem. Until I complete that essay I’ll have to stay away from forming a public opinion. I would, however, love to hear how people feel about the issue.