The situation of barred owls in Charlotte is very different, Bierregaard and his students believe. Though their findings are not fully complete, the researchers have so far found that the urban barred owls are able to reproduce effectively perhaps significantly more effectively than in wild forests because their rate of reproduction exceeds their rate of mortality. In the city, owl death tends to happen either from disease or from cars, the owls most serious predator.
The researchers have attached miniaturized radio transmitters to young owls. The ecologists then track the movements of the owls as they mature and note where they finally settle among the network of well-mapped territories and nesting sites, establishing a kind of on-going community history of the owl population in south Charlotte.
If you see an owl in south Charlotte, chances are we know it by name, said Bierregaard. Theres a location in Lata Park, for example, that has apparently had barred owls almost forever. But just since weve been studying that pair, it has been replaced by a completely new pair. Three years ago, the male died he was replaced. The next year, the female died the male raised the young as a single dad and then the next year the female was replaced. If we didnt have radios and know those birds, nobody would have known that they were new birds. Its been amazing how quickly they are replaced.
Bierregaard notes that Charlotte wasnt always such prime owl habitat. A hundred years ago when the city was much smaller, most of the current residential area was farmland open country with few trees that would be suitable for barred owl nests. As the land was sold for residential neighborhoods, trees were planted which eventually grew to old growth forest size and,
|Contact: James Hathaway|
University of North Carolina at Charlotte