An eye for owls

  • Dec. 4, 2009 9:00 a.m.

Submitted articleNorthern Saw-whet Owls, the only owl species to breed on Haida Gwaii, are often seen flying along the roadside at this time of year. Members of the Northern Saw-whet Owl Recovery Team speculate many of the owls living in the interior of the islands during the summer move to the coast for the fall and winter. Here, they join their coastal kin for a winter of feeding in the intertidal and open areas along the coast. In contrast to the monotonously repeated whistles of the spring, vocalizations made by saw-whet owls in the fall and winter are typically an array of nasal screeches that surprise many people who may walk along the shoreline in the dark.An unfortunate down-side for the owls’ habit of shoreline aggregation is that some are struck by vehicles at this time of year. Two owls have been found in the last week, and turned into the Gwaii Haanas office. The Northern Saw-whet Owl Recovery Team kindly requests that anyone who strikes or finds an owl, turn it into the Gwaii Haanas office (Carita Bergman, 559-8818), or the Forestry Office (Berry Wijdeven, MoE, 559-6245). Owls stuck by vehicles are sometimes stunned for an extended period, so all effort should be made to ensure the owl is truly dead before sealing it into a bag! Owls should be collected in a plastic bag, and stored in the freezer to preserve them if they cannot be delivered right away. The team plans to use the owl carcasses to better understand the diet and genetics of this unique subspecies that is currently classified as threatened by the Council on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada.