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Northern Spotted Owl

Spotted Owl

The Spotted Owls habitat of old growth forests has dramatically influenced timber management practices in the Pacific Northwest. The owl is named for the white spots on the chocolate brown feathers that cover the back and chest. It has a very round head, large dark eyes and a yellow bill. It is 16-19 inches tall and has a wingspan of 45 inches.

The Spotted Owl is a nocturnal hunter. Fuzzy feathers with serrated edges allow it to swoop silently down on prey of mice, wood rats, rabbits and tree voles. Scientists analyze regurgitated pellets of fur and bones to determine the owls diet.

Spotted Owls have long-term mates. They nest in tree hollows, broken tree tops, or crevices in caves or cliffs. They may use the same nest site for years. The female incubates 2-3 whitish eggs for a month, during which the male feeds her. The pair cares for the young for several months. Survival rate of chicks is very low, only 11%. The pair usually nests every other year.

Spotted Owls are intolerant of even moderately high temperatures because of thick plumage and an insufficient ability cool down. Their day-time summer roosts are on north facing slopes in cool canyons with dense overhead canopy.

Each pair requires 1400-4500 acres for a home range. Since the 1800s Spotted Owl habitat has declined by 88%. It competes with its cousin, the Barred Owl, which has spread here from the eastern U.S. Scientists estimate the Spotted Owl population here is declining by 3.9% each year.

First published MCAS The Black Oystercatcher March 2015
Northern Spotted Owl USFWS Region 5 (Pacific Southwest) Photograph by John and Karen Hollingsworth