It’s not every day that a new raptor species is found breeding in Wyoming. However, TRC’s research team made such a rare discovery late this summer when it documented a pair of Barred Owls nesting in Grand Teton National Park. This is the first known instance of the species breeding in Wyoming. Research technician Adrian Rouse made the surprising observation while conducting a small mammal survey as part of TRC’s Great Gray Owl study. He spotted an owl flying, and when he relocated it, he was shocked to see it was an adult Barred Owl, a species rarely seen in Wyoming. Nearby, he located a second adult, and then a young, downy fledgling – evidence that the owls successfully nested. Soon after, Tom Stanton, a wildlife photographer, shared with TRC that he also observed the same pair nesting in a large cavity in a cottonwood tree, which he photographed.
This discovery exemplifies why long-term raptor research and monitoring programs are so important. Even within the highly-conserved Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, ecological changes are occurring, and the TRC research team is working hard to document and understand their effects. Already, historically non-native species such as the American Crow and Turkey Vulture have become commonplace in northwestern Wyoming. Now another generalist species, the Barred Owl, is starting to call the Cowboy State home. Over the past century, Barred Owls have rapidly expanded their range west from eastern North America, in large part due to anthropogenic land-use changes. Barred Owls are highly territorial and aggressive, and their arrival in the Pacific Northwest has proven extremely detrimental to Northern Spotted Owls, which are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It is unknown how Barred Owls will impact forest raptors native to Wyoming such as Great Gray Owls, American Goshawks, Boreal Owls, and Flammulated Owls. However, you can be sure that the TRC research team will be working to find out, as they add another raptor, the Barred Owl, to their long list of study species.
To read more about the discovery of Barred Owls nesting in Wyoming, check out the recent WyoFile article, which featured TRC Associate Research Director, Katherine Gura. And please report your sightings of Barred Owls in Wyoming to TRC by emailing [email protected].
And, if you are in Jackson Hole, join us tonight at the Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club talk, featuring TRC’s Associate Research Director, Katherine Gura, where she will be presenting “A Decade of Great Gray Owl Research in the GYE.” The talk is tonight, Tuesday, October 10th, at 6 p.m. at the Teton County Library.