“The Great Gray Owl” by Denver Holt will be Mission Mountain Audubon’s educational program on Wednesday, May 29 at 7 p.m. in the Polson Library Meeting Room. Everyone is welcome.
Holt’s, Owl Research Institute (ORI), has been incidentally collecting data on Great Gray owls in Montana for over 20 years. However, four years ago, ORI organized these efforts around specific research questions, and began a detailed study. Today, Great Grays owls are one of nine species that they research and monitor in western Montana. Denver will provide an overview of the owl’s natural history including its breeding behavior and habitat requirements.
A special focus of ORI’s Great Gray owl project is to gather measurements on the dead trees that the owl uses for its nest. Great Gray owls may also use abandoned stick nests, or even clumps of mistletoe, but snags are important for many nesting owls and a myriad of other species in northwestern Montana. Similar to many cavity nesting owls, the snags used by Great Gray owls must have specific characteristics including a large diameter and broken top, as well as a large, relatively flat nest bowl to accommodate the owl’s massive size.
ORI’s goal is to build a predictable model to identify, and potentially conserve and manage, for these unique, dead trees. Unfortunately, ORI routinely finds large snags that have been removed from ideal Great Gray habitat due to numerous reasons including firewood, disease, safety concerns during logging operations, or a well-intentioned landowner that believes the snags are of no value. Therefore, public education and participation is a key focus of this project, and ORI urges you to please contact them at https://www.owlresearchinstitute.org/ if you have any information regarding Great Gray owl nests.
Holt is the founder and lead researcher of the Owl Research Institute who has been studying Montana’s owls for more than 30 years.