Saturday, August 05, 2006

Central Park: Eastern Screech-Owl 4-Aug

Eastern Screech-Owl
Central Park Ramble — Bank Rock Bay
Images by BEN CACACE
(Click image for a larger view)

The photo above, taken on 4-Aug-2006 at 4:40p, shows an Eastern Screech-Owl with a reddish colored item hanging down the middle of its breast.

Click here to see an uncompressed view of the image.

In the past some of these reintroduced Eastern Screech-Owls were fitted with harnesses. The harness held a transmitter used to track their movements. The red feature in the photos may be a remnant of this system.

On 29-Apr-2006 Cal Vornberger took a photo of an Eastern Screech-Owl with a similar item hanging down its breast. Visit Cal's site to read about & view images of a similarly appointed owl.


Anonymous said...

The reddish thing on the breast of this owl may be her symbolic scarlet letter. It is not, however,an A for adultery, as in the Hawthorne story, but a B for bloody murder.

The red-phase Screech Owl that used to roost near the Riviera bench was found dead last winter and sent to the wildlife pathology lab for analysis. Ward Stone found multiple lacerations on the dead owl's body and believed the cause of death was an attack by another screech owl. The owl in your picture, Ben, was almost certainly the only other screech in the Ramble at that time, and is now the last remaining screech in the Ramble,[perhaps in the park.] One might say about the grandiose screech-owl reintroduction program: Sic transit gloria mundi.

Robert DeCandido PhD said...


Looking back three years time, we know the following...(a) the owl in the photo had a partially red feather on its breast/upper abdomen - nothing pernicious about that - or unusual. (b) Screech-owls bred in 2006 (but did not fledge young since one of the adults was killed); in 2007 they had 5 young but three were removed (but then returned to the park); and in 2008 they bred again raising three young; and in 2009 (January) another pair has formed. (c) The screech-owls are tremendously popular with is confusing that so many people who enjoy/photograph them then get on the internet to complain in one way or another about the owl reintroduction project; and (d) no restoration effort is 100% successful...there will always be deaths and setbacks. That does not mean the project was/is a failure. I encourage people to think long-term with the project. It requires many years, and the cooperation of different individuals/organizations to establish 2-4 pairs in the park. Perhaps that is the greatest failure of the project so far - folks are still feuding over the owls rather than trying to figure out how to work together (along with wildlife rehabbers) to get the owls (more or less) permanently established in the park. (e) How to judge success? On the one hand the project has been successful beyond my wildest hopes - look at all the people who are aware of screech-owls now, and their history in NYC...and the care/concern these folks have for the owls. Look at all the folks who want to see the CP Eastern Screech-owls - a virtual army or caring/curious people. From that perspective (getting people involved and providing accurate information), the project has been a success. Now getting the Eastern Screech-owl permanently established (with 2-4 breeding pairs) will take more work and cooperation...But they have bred - and I remember well in 1998 when the idea was first proposed how many people (who care) thought that could never be done. This remains the first and only urban owl restoration that I know of, and it used a novel approach: rehabilitated owls. The challenge now, and in the next few years, is to work with rehabbers to get the population up to sustainable levels so that placing more screechers in the park does not need to be done every year. Looking at past years' results here in Central Park, it does seem it will be necessary to augment the CP owl population occasionally. Does that make the project a failure? You will have to decide for yourself. (f) The decline of the screech-owl continues throughout NYC. It was once the most common owl species in NYC, then about 1950 this species begins a rapid decline throughout the city. Its only stronghold is on Staten Island...and since screechers do not migrate (making them great candidiates for re-introduction projects), once they are lost from a park, they are gone forever.

Robert DeCandido PhD

"History of the Eastern Screech-owl in New York City" - available free on the web - do google search.