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 birdingonthe.net
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: 


Hi Rob,

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. 



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