[Tweeters] Observing & Respecting Owls and Their Habitat - A WOS Birding Ethics Press Release

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Mon Feb 23 20:38:12 PST 2015

I was asked, by Dan Stephens, WOS President, to post this on Tweeters - I am glad to help:

Barb Deihl
Matthews Beach Neighborhood - NE Seattle
barbdeihl at comcast.net


Contact: Dan Stephens, President, Washington Ornithological Society
Cell: 509-679-4706
email: dstephens at wvc.edu

Observing and Respecting Roosting Owls and their Habitat

Owls, in particular Long-eared Owls, are fascinating raptors that you don't see every day due to their nocturnal habits and secretive ways. When a roosting owl is located, it is natural to want to observe it.

Recently, two Long-eared Owls were found roosting on a road near Stanwood, Wash. As word got out, more and more observers visited the site, resulting in dozens of visitors at once -- not all of whom respected the owls' needs. They approached too close to the owls, usually in an attempt to get a better photograph.

Roosting owls want to stay as still as possible. This is a defense mechanism so that they remain as undisturbed as possible. There are telltale signs that a roosting owl has been disturbed including a forward crouching defensive stance, wide open eyes that follow the observer, and changing positions on its perch. The very last thing that an observer should do is get too close which causes an owl to flush. Often, a day flying owl can attract the attention of larger daytime predators to the detriment of the owl.

Study the behavior of the owl to determine how you should proceed once you have located one or if you are tracking an owl that has already been located by somebody else. As a general rule, keep well back from roosting owls as they will become alarmed. Be aware of your effects on the habitat surrounding the owl. Abide by the established codes of ethics that cover observation and photography of wildlife:

Nature Photography: http://www.naturephotographers.net/ethics.html

Birding: http://www.aba.org/about/ethics.html

These owls need all their calories to survive the winter. Please do not force them to use important energy reserves to flee from you or your pets by getting too close. Help these owls to live alongside us without being harassed. If they are left undisturbed, they may return in future years for all of us to once again have the opportunity to observe these magnificent secretive birds.

The Washington Ornithological Society (WOS) was founded in 1988 to to increase our knowledge of the birds of Washington and to enhance communication among all persons interested in those birds. WOS provides a forum for birders from throughout the state to meet and share information on bird identification, biology, population status, and birding sites. Membership is open to all persons interested in birds and birding. WOS is a non-profit organization under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code.

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