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Ecologists discover city is 'uber-forest' for big owls
Date:10/16/2007

untryside, but the project began when he first considered doing a study of barn owls, which are common in farm country, as a thesis project for a graduate student. A team of volunteers was necessary to support the effort and, unfortunately, they all lived in the city -- a long drive from the proposed rural study sites.

In order to accommodate the volunteers, the researchers pragmatically changed the target species and put up nest boxes in the wooded suburban neighborhood where the volunteers lived. Barred owls, they discovered, were common there.

Barred owls need old growth forest because they need trees big enough to have holes to nest in, Bierregaard noted. They also need a pretty open understory, because their hunting technique is to sit on a branch and wait for something to move. If you have a young forest with a really thick undergrowth, they are not going to be able to see enough to hunt.

When you look at suburban Charlotte, what do we have? Weve got giant old willow oak trees with plenty of holes in them and weve got mowed lawns and azalea bushes, which is a very open understory, so they can see a long way. The habitat is an uber old growth forest for owls because the understory is so open and there are plenty of birdfeeders to attract prey.

The research study, which began in 2001 and has been sponsored by the Carolina Raptor Center, has been large-scale and in-depth, with researchers monitoring about 40 nesting sites each year and tracking many sets of young as they mature through attached radio transmitters. Using radio telemetry, the team has mapped out a dozen or so owl territories in south Charlotte, each of which is about 200 acres in size. Locating the birds and their nests, normally a very difficult task in wild forests, has been greatly simplified thanks to the reporting of ordinary Charlotteans, who apparently love their citys owls.

Probably half the nests weve found because someone either called in to
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Contact: James Hathaway
jbhathaw@uncc.edu
704-687-6675
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Source:Eurekalert

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