Sara and I saw our first, to date our ONLY, Eastern Screech-Owl on August 12, 2003. I remember the sighting vividly, but the date springs readily to mind only because it was just one day after I started this blog. A nice way to kick the festivities off, wouldn’t you say?
I was reminded of our screech-owl encounter by an article I received today on the History of the Eastern Screech-Owl in New York City, 1867-2005. This magnificent Megascops monograph is written by Robert DeCandido, also known to inquisitive urban owlers as Birding Bob. He describes it thusly:
In the paper we show how common (abundant really) this little owl was throughout NYC from the 19th century to about 1950. Since that time, Eastern Screech-Owls (ESOs) have declined, and are now only found in reasonable number on parts of Staten Island. I also present the results of the ESO restoration project in Central Park that began way back in 1997 when I came up with the idea, and then worked on it for several years thereafter tracking the birds on foot, doing owl walks at night, making extensive field notes, and spending hours in the library doing research. ESOs are breeding once again in Central Park (first time since 1949). These are all descendants of re-habbed ESOs that I tracked down from different parts of the country…
This paper also identifies the five owl species known to breed in New York City and five other owls that have been spotted within the five boroughs, including the Boreal we twitched last Christmas Eve. Accounts of the marvelous diversity of this area are enlightening, but precautionary as well. Robert writes that NYC has lost two nocturnal and three diurnal raptors as nesting species in the last century while others like the eastern screech-owl have declined considerably throughout their former ranges. So while we wonder at the presence of such amazing avians in our fair city, or for that matter any urban ecosystem, we need to wonder even harder about how we can keep them around.