Northern Spotted Owl: Key species of the Old Growth Forest
Let’s start by defining what an old growth forest is. An old growth forest is a forest with large trees, and standing dead trees(also called standing snags-(Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old-growth_forest).
The Northern Spotted Owl is 18 inches in height and in length, weighing around 1 to 2 lbs. Its wingspan when in flight is 48 inches. The coloring of these owls are dark to chestnut brown with round or oval white spots on its heads, neck and back and underparts. Northern Spotted Owls are one of the few owls that have dark colored eyes. The males of this species are smaller than the females. The main vocal sounds are four doglike barks and cries, and the females use a hollow, upslurred whistle when making contact. Lifespan of the Northern Spotted Owl ranges from 10 years in the wild and 15 to 20 years in captivity.
Northern Spotted Owls eat flying squirrels, wood rats, mice, birds, insects reptiles and other small rodents. Both males and females hunt for food except when the female is incubating the eggs she lays. During this time and the 8 to 10 days after the young hatch, the male provides the food. Owls get their feathers 34 to 36 days after they hatch according to the Defenders of Wildlife (http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/spotted_owl,_northern.php).
The owls are found on the west coast of the United States, primarily in the old growth forests of northern California, Oregon, Washington and southern British Columbia, Canada. Though they don’t migrate as many birds do, the Northern Spotted Owl may change its home range due to extreme weather such as a large snow fall which makes hunting for food difficult.
The Northern Spotted Owl was placed on the Threatened Species list under the Endangered Species act in 1990 in all three states of California, Oregon and Washington. In Canada, the owls are on the endangered species list under the 2002 Species At Risk Act. These magnificient owls are declining due to the over logging of their beloved forests as well as the barred owls overtaking the range and habitat of the spotted owl (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Spotted_Owl).
The Northern Spotted Owl serves as an indicator species for old growth forests. In studying the owls, it allows the scientists to see the larger picture of health of the ecosystem the owls inhabit (http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/spotted_owl,_northern.php).