Environment
1:28 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Broad Diet Helps Barred Owls Thrive

Researchers say they have learned why invasive barred owls are thriving while native spotted owl populations are slowly disappearing.

The barred owl and the spotted owl are like a pair of siblings. They’re closely related species, and they compete over everything. They compete over the best trees to roost in. And for the best food source too, juicy flying squirrels. But barred owls are less picky. And that gives them an edge. David Weins tracked both species in the Oregon coast range.

He says barred owls eat everything from beetles to snails to fish. One female owl spent hours perched above a stream. “Finally we went over and looked where this bird was perching, and we found the remains of just hundreds of crayfish there. “

Weins says that broad diet helps more barred owls survive and raise young in smaller patches of old-growth forest. Federal biologists are planning to experimentally shoot some barred owls to see if it helps spotted owls recover.