Occurrence of spotted owls in Fir/Hemlock Forest and Ponderosa Shrub Forest is usually
limited to elevations where a dominant component of the forest, in both the overstory
and understory, is white fir, silver fir, or both. Forest types not used by spotted owls include subalpine fir and pure stands of ponderosa pine, lodgpole pine, and
Some general characteristics of the habitat of the spotted owl can be described as:
The plants which grow close to the ground are very important to the owls, as they
are used for resting or "roosting" in the deep shade during warm weather. During
cold and wet weather the owls avoid the lower temperatures near the ground by roosting
in the trees, which increases their exposure to the sun's warmth.
The tops of broken trees or cavities in tree trunks are used by the owls for nests. They occasionally will use an old eagle or raven nest, but they do not build their own nests.
The owls begin hunting just after sunset and stop shortly before sunrise, making them nocturnal animals. Their major source of food is rodents such as flying squirrels, woodrats, and gophers. They also sometimes eat birds, insects, and reptiles.
Spotted owls hunt by sitting quietly on elevated perches and then swooping down upon their unsuspecting prey. When they are caring for their young, they store excess food and retrieve it later. The owls mate for life. The female lays eggs in about March and April and the male brings food to her. She usually lays two or three eggs and they hatch in about 30 days. For the next four to six months the male continues to do most of the hunting and the female feeds the prey to the young owlets. As the owlets mature, they begin roosting away from their parents and make longer movements at night, developing their skills as fliers and hunters, until finally, in about September or October, they leave and begin fending for themselves and looking for mates.
The great horned owl is the major predator for owlets, but ravens, goshawks, Coopers
hawks, and red tailed hawks have also been known to kill and eat them. Very few
animals prey on adult spotted owls.
Northern Spotted Owls still inhabit a broad area, but their numbers are declining. The number of spotted owls on lands in Oregon managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is estimated at 118 pairs. There are 278 sites at which spotted owls were located in 1987. An interim agreement was entered into between the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to maintain 110 sites on BLM land. To ensure future survival, the owl needs special management care.
The Federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are developing
land use plans which will provide the opportunity to manage areas of habitat to maintain
a healthy population of the owls. Of course, the owl is not the only species which will benefit from land use plans. Managing forest habitats for owls will also provide
many other wildlife species with places to live.
Some literature indicates that the population of Spotted Owls is all the way down to a mere 1200 pairs in Oregon, 560 pairs in northern California, and only 500 pairs in the whole state of Washington. Even though the adult owl doesn't have any major predator in the way of animals, you could say the most dangerous predator is man himself.