Boreal Owl Invasion Fails to Meet Expectations in Minnesota

Boreal owls are extremely rare resident birds in Minnesota. The first nesting pair was not recorded until 1978.  But every once in awhile, due to the boom and crash cycles of sub-arctic rodents, Boreal Owls invade northern Minnesota. Last fall citizen scientist, Susan Plankis, reported that Minnesota birders believed that the winter of 2012-13 was going to be one of those years. Birder, Jim Lind did see one January 23rd in Two Harbors, and one was spotted earlier this winter in Sax-Zim Bog by Chad Heins and just yesterday a Boreal owl was spotted at Goosberry Falls State Park, but occasional sightings are not unusual even in a typical year. There have been reports of an uptick in Boreal Owls being banded in Quebec and eastern Ontario which is evidence of an invasion but not yet as far west as the Quetico Superior.

Boreal Owls are often remarked as one of the most handsome of owls. This small to medium sized owl is reclusive and nests in mature forests. Because of this nesting behavior Boreal owl populations are sensitive to clear-cut logging in their breeding range. Don’t believe some of the range maps you see on the Internet that show a southerly swath of residential birds through the heart of Canada and a little spur in the subalpine forests of the Rockies. I have seen Boreal Owls in the Far North. In fact, there was a pair

photo by Chad Heims this winter in Sax-Zim Bog

nesting a stone’s throw from my cabin and only sixty miles from the treeline.

A call which sounds like rapidly dripping water should put evening forest walkers on high alert. Although not as numerous as what was hoped, there is still plenty of winter left to catch a glimpse of one of these northern invaders.

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