[CT Birds] Snowy Owls, CTBirds, and All of Us

Roy Harvey rmharvey at snet.net
Wed Dec 4 17:35:12 EST 2013

The question has come up about the rule on this list about reporting owls, and the many reports of Snowy Owls on the list.

The distinction we try to make in the list rules is between "day roosting owls" and "open-country owls".

Day-roosting owls spend the day hidden away.  The are generally nocturnal and retire into trees or even bushes for the daytime.  When they have to move 
during the day it is a major change in their routine and opens them up 
to harassment from other birds.  They may use the same roost regularly, for weeks or even months, and to loose the use of such a roost can be serious.  Observing anything hidden away requires getting very close.  We do not want reports of day-roosting owls on the list unless they are exceptionally rare.  When one of the rare ones 
finally shows up in CT we will need to police our ranks.

Open-country owls generally nest very far north where there is so little darkness in the summer that they have to be able to work during the day.  This 
includes Short-eared Owls and Snowy Owls.  Being in the open they can 
normally be found and observed at greater distances that need not stress them too much.

No set of rules is perfect or covers all circumstances.  When we have such an abundance of Snowy Owls as this we need to take every opportunity to emphasize proper birding behavior, both on the lists and in the field.  When it becomes clear that many of these birds are in very poor 
condition - or worse - we have to raise our voices even louder.
Just because an owl doesn't fly away when you approach does not mean 
everything is fine.  The bird can be stressed enough to need to escape 
yet be too weak to fly.  Binoculars and scopes allow us to view these 
birds at a respectful distance, so lets KEEP that distance.  But we all 
know that some birders won't, just as some with cameras won't.  I know 
of no solution to that problem, but I believe that it is best addressed 
by increasing awareness rather than trying to hide birds that are so distinctive and not hiding themselves.

Roy Harvey
Beacon Falls, CT

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