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

the Raptor Center and reported young on the ground or were wandering around a neighborhood with a tape recorder playing owl calls and someone will ask what are you doing? Ill explain and theyll say theres a pair three blocks over that way. Since they are so vocal, you cant be around a barred owl nest and not know it, Bierregaard said.

Though amused to see the biologists afield in their yards, the Charlotte community seems to have eagerly embraced the project. Pretty much everybody knows us when they see us and the antennas, he said. There arent many neighborhoods where we havent been.

Public enthusiasm and interest aside, some very serious science is going on in peoples backyards. One of the most important ecological questions that the study is close to answering is the question of whether or not the barred owls are really as successful in Charlotte as they appear to be.

The answer to the question of whether or not the citys many owls have been able to be at home is not as obvious as it would seem on the surface. For example, the coopers hawk, another raptor known to be common in cities like Charlotte, has been shown not to be able to breed successfully in the urban environment by a recent scientific study.

Coopers hawks are drawn by the food, Bierregaard notes. Everyones got birdfeeders up and a birdfeeder is just a two-step hawk feeding platform. The local Coopers hawks have these kamikaze raids where they will fly though a neighborhood at full speed and they will come around a corner where they know theres a birdfeeder and just see what flies up in front of them. It is like they are trap-lining the local birdfeeders.

The visiting hawks are not as successful, however, when it comes to nesting. Cities abound with pigeons and doves, which are good prey for hawks but often carry a microbial parasite that is fatal to the hawks young. The urban environment thus creates an ecological condition known as a sink the area l
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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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