Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) by Ed Lee
Juvenile Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) by Bill Halladay
Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) by Terry & Joanne Johnson
Want to know why potential reductions to Oregon’s @CascadeSiskiyou National Monument matter for birds? We asked Pepper Trail, Ph.D., conservation chair of @roguevalleyaudubon and a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society.
“Numerous vulnerable bird species could lose important habitat if the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM) is reduced in size. Other than Spotted Owl (the only ESA-listed bird in the CSNM), the most significant (and certainly the most charismatic) is the Great Gray Owl. The monument area, especially the expansion areas around Howard Prairie Lake and Grizzly Peak, is famous among west-coast birders as perhaps the easiest place to see this species. Mountain meadow habitats around Hyatt and Howard Prairie Lakes used by Great Gray Owls for hunting are also important nesting areas for Sandhill Cranes and the sharply declining Oregon Vesper Sparrow (which ABC has suggested may need ESA listing).
The monument expansion to the east, along the ridge known as Surveyor Mountain, is important habitat for higher elevation birds that are threatened by climate change in our region. Examples include Red Crossbill, Cassin’s Finch, and Gray Jay. Not only does this expansion area provide habitat itself, but it provides a secure connection to even higher-elevation areas to the north, including the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
Finally, the lower-elevation expansion areas to the west and south protect oak savannah and chaparral birds. Oak savannah is critically declining in the region, as ABC’s Bob Altman has documented for years. The expansion areas are home to the slender-billed subspecies of White-breasted Nuthatches, healthy nesting populations of Western Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows, and are important wintering habitat for Lewis’s Woodpeckers. The chaparral habitat in the Horseshoe Wildlife Area in California (part of the expansion) are home to California Thrashers (at or near their northernmost range limit) as well as California Towhees and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, both of which barely extend into southern Oregon.”
Photo of Great Gray Owl by Peter Krejzl/Shutterstock)