NYSBirds-L has no web-accessible long-term archive, so this message was
cut and pasted verbatim from the short-term NYSBirds-L list archive on
Subject: Boreal Owl comments and information
From: Rob Jett
Date: 20 Dec 2004 08:33:50 -0500
I'm still having difficulty understanding the rationale behind the posting of
directions to an owl roost by the moderators of two birding discussion groups.
By their own words posting the location of a roosting owl is forbidden. Is the
code of birding ethics suddenly unimportant? Are the possible hurt feeling by a
few birders more important than promoting the welfare of the bird? Directions
by word of mouth would likely have reached far fewer people than handing it out
to hundreds all at once.
I contacted Bill Lane, an owl biologist who has been studying Boreal Owls for
20 years. For those interested, here is his response to my inquires:
Thanks for the message. I suspect the boreal in central park will be in for
some serious scrutiny. That can be good and that can be bad. Good, because it
increases the public's awareness about owl biology and population patterns and
habitat and our shrinking environment. Bad, because one overzealous birder can
leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
Given my biologic background etc., I am always discrete about owl sightings
and/or owl locations. In nearly 2 decades with boreals, I know enough about
their behaviors to suggest the following: if the bird is in a roosting posture
(i.e. daylight, sleeping, oblivious to the big apple) observers can do their
thing without too much impact on the owl. People should be encouraged to
observe away from the bird...which will give all an opportunity to field test
and brag about their binocs and scopes. If however, the owl is hunting
diurnally, then any undue disturbance can have severe impacts on the
survivability of the owl. Diurnal hunting by a nocturnal species is a sign of
metabolic distress. Leave the owl alone, or throw it a mouse and then leave it
alone (good luck on that one in nyc).
And, yes, you are right in interpreting the birder's explanation about the owl.
My experience is that an opportunity at a rare species has many birders
rationalizing or justifying their own behaviors, including trespassing, poor
discipline, and poor ethics. At that point, we get into human behavior which
ultimately, trumps owl behavior and birding decorum. Not all birders, mind you,
but one is enough.
Finally, boreals typically do not roost in the same tree (at least in the
boreal forest) with any regularity. Therefore, finding the owl likely won't be
automatic and may give the bird and concerned birders, some relief.
Please keep me posted on how things develop.
The City Birder Weblog