Snowy Owl

Republican's Motto-A Tree Left Standing Has No Value

With each old forest tract that is removed from the boreal forest zone, cavity trees are lost, roosting and foraging habitats are altered, and competition for remaining resources is magnified. The signs of change in the environment are readily apparent: boreal owl numbers have declined since the late-1980's, a mere fraction of historic cavity trees remain standing, and the distribution of the owls has decreased markedly. Throw in global warming and scientific predictions that the boreal forest zone is receding to the north and the periodic winter irruptions are (and will be) relegated to nothing less than a birding novelty.

Old growth and old forest habitats are critical to all northern forest owls. Without decadent trees, cavities are not excavated and obligate secondary cavity nesters move elsewhere. And it isn't just the owls. Small mammal populations have been shown to be up to 5 x's higher in intact old forest and old growth tracts. Irruptive owls move south, but for the survivors, the return north increasingly means fewer cavity trees, fewer forests, and fewer resources.

As the winter progresses, owl sightings will increase and so too will the number of owls that meet their demise in habitats far removed from their natal forests and bogs. When spring comes again, the wintertime observations will subside, birders will anxiously await the arrival of neotropical migrants, and owl survivors will move north to sing and hoot in familiar tracts of boreal forest. There, the true struggle will begin.