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Endangered Species: Northern Spotted Owl

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Endangered Species: Northern Spotted Owl

Also known as Strix Occidentalis Caurina, the Northern Spotted Owls are predatory birds that are an endangered species. Northern Spotted Owls have a height of about eighteen inches and a wingspan of about forty-eight inches. They are generally one to two pounds in weight and are ranked among the largest owls in North America. They live as long as ten years in the wild. These owls are chestnut brown with round white spots throughout its body. Their wings are dark and barred with light brown or white. They have a distinct flight pattern including a series of rapid wing beats combined with a gliding flight. Northern Spotted Owls are nocturnal, hunting flying squirrels, wood rats, mice, small rodents, birds, insects, and reptiles at night. The major predator of the Northern Spotted Owl is the Great Horned Owl, but ravens, goshawks, Cooper hawks, and red tailed hawks have been known to kill and eat them too. They are found in old growth forests, such as Douglas fir, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Redwood, where they are extremely territorial and intolerant of habitat disturbances. Northern Spotted Owls prefer flying between and under tree canopies that are high and open. Trees with broken tops, large holes, or deformed limbs are used for nesting sites. They mate during February and March, having a clutch size of about 3- 4 eggs. Incubation is performed for about 30 days, and then the eggs hatch and are fed food from the male owl for eight to ten days.

In 1990, the Fish and Wildlife Service labeled the Northern Spotted Owl as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. There are fewer than 100 pairs of Northern spotted owls in British Columbia, Canada, 1,200 pairs in Oregon, 560 pairs in northern California and 500 pairs in the state of Washington. This is mainly due to the loss of old growth forests from logging and forest fragmentation and threats of these losses are heightened by natural disasters such as fires. Each pair needs a large amount of land for hunting and nesting, and spotted owls shift areas in response to seasonal changes that interfere with hunting. They are also affected by the barred owl population which often displaces resident northern spotted owls or breed with them creating hybrids. Global warming has almost made its mark on this species. The summer droughts increase forest fires in the old-growth forests that owls depend on. They also increase insect breakouts which make the northern spotted owls vulnerable to disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The Northern Spotted Owls are one of the few owls who have darker eyes which is distinct from most owls which mainly have eye colors of yellow to red-orange. Because of this, Northern Spotted Owls are an indicator species for the well-being of the old-growth forest ecosystems. The species decline has become a symbol of the loss of ancient forests. These forests shelter a wealth of other species

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