[Tweeters] Snowy Owl

Dan Reiff, PhD dan.owl.reiff at gmail.com
Sat Jan 13 05:42:20 PST 2018

Hello Tweeters,
A lightly marked Snowy owl is currently present at Seattle University near the soccer field. I do not currently have the name of the person who first found it, but thank you. My personal ethic is to not disclose locations of owls- for me this is one of the exceptions. I honor the fact that this location is already public and may be enjoyed by many. I respect and appreciate that this individual was very generous with sharing the observation and location and believe it will not have any insignificant impact on this Snowy and bring enjoyment to many.
I believe it is highly likely that it will be present in the morning.
I have spent much enjoyable time observing many species of owls in the past decade.
Based on my observations, this is a healthy owl, flies well, and is actively and successfully feeding and preening. Appears interested but not stressed in what are likely to be novel experiences: ambulances, lights, sirens, college kids with nearby loud music and alcohol.
My experience with owls is they find humans irrelevant to their lives unless they experience direct and intentional interference or perceived aggression.
I observed many rats 🐀 in the area , before finding the owl.

There seem to be two camps regarding How to respond to Snowy and other owls in Urban areas:

Camp one: They are starving, injured, will be injured or will certainly die if they are not rescued immediately.

Camp two: They are not starving, are very intelligent given their own species specific needs, choose a Wintering site with purpose, not accidentally, because it meets their needs( hey-a locked, fenced green Tundra-like flat area with unlimited, giant lemming- like rodents -rats- and some even larger mammals) and will move on if they find insufficient food, shelter or feel chronically threatened or disturbed and do not need to be rescued from themselves or human activities. And like all young owls and other birds, may not survive their first year.
Based upon my observations of many owl species, I am in the second camp.
High risk environments for owls and people, like airports appear to be one of the exceptions.
So, could this owl be hit by a car in this metropolitan area? Yes. There is risk that it could be injured and taken into captivity and rehabilitated or possibly die. Does that mean it should be immediately trapped and kept in captivity for several months? In my opinion, no, but I appreciate that there are several ways of considering and handling this and other specific situations. My opinion is only one of many.
I did hesitate before sending this email to the list serve, because I feared someone would try to trap this obviously healthy owl today. Again, it has been posted elsewhere.

On my way home, On Mercer Island, I was surprised to see a small owl fly across the road in front of my car. I speculated that it was a Wintering Saw-whet.
Although I stopped and looked, I could not find it. Small owls 🦉 quickly imbed themselves in thickets and are very difficult to see. Small owls are very vulnerable to predation, so disappearing into dense foliage is a often a winning strategy.
As I proceeded down the road about 600 feet, another small owl crossed the road, followed by a male Barred owl. I stopped and watched the Barred. It was actively hunting and hyper-motile and hyper-vigilante. It did not locate the small owl.
My speculation now is that this was a pair of Western Screech owls being hunted by the Barred Owl. I do hope that the Screech owls Out-smart the larger owl and Survive!
I have been fortunate to spend much time observing Western Screech owls, including in my own neighborhood and they are one of my favorites.
Finally, I would not be surprised if more than the one Snowy owl is found this month in Western Washington in the next few weeks,
So let’s all watch the usual, historically preferred sites.
Let’s hope we see more of these beauties this Winter.
Best regards,
Dan Reiff, PhD

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