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WILDLIFE WATCHING — Sad news: the northern hawk owl that's been attracting birders from far and wide to the Moscow, Idaho, area has been reported dead.
The rare visitor from the arctic has been hunting and hanging out in the area since it was spotted Dec. 3 near a Moscow shopping mall by raptor expert Erik Stauber, a retired wildlife veterinary professor from Washington State University.
Moscow birder Terry Gray, who's been watching and photographing the bird almost daily just reported the news.
The hawk owl, a bird of boreal forests in Alaska and Canada, became a sensation because of its willingness to stay in the same area and be photographed by many, many birders after Gray posted photos and began giving daily reports on where the bird could be seen.
Northern hawk owls have been recorded and documented farther south in Idaho (Hailey and in eastern Idaho) and several had been recorded for Moscow and Pullman around 20 years ago, says birder Charles Swift.
But the bird is a rare or maybe once-in-a-lifetime bird for many enthusiasts in this region.
Birders had expressed concern about the bird's lack of fear for powerlines and vehicle traffic as it hunted for mice and voles in the wild patches along the town's edges and roadways. The bird was found injured but alive on a road where it had been hunting. Apparently it was struck by a vehicle. It was taken to WSU veterinarians but did not survive.
Click Continue reading for more details about the bird and from WSU News. (Note the error in reporting that this is the first documented sighting of a hawk owl near Moscow):
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The online alerts have been buzzing this week with news of a northern hawk owl hanging out out around Moscow — a rare sighting that's attracting life-listing birdwatchers from around the region.
The hawk owl was still there this morning, according to this post from Kirsten Dahl.
The Northern Hawk-Owl is still present as of 7:30 am this morning. It is perched on top of a bush just east of the Hwy 8/Blaine intersection, along the bike trail.
The photo above is by Moscow birder Terry Gray. Here's a story about the occasion by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:
MOSCOW - When Lori Nelson heard about the northern hawk owl, she quickly devised a plan.
She dropped her son off at school Wednesday morning in Richland and headed east to the Palouse. By noon, she was standing under a tree near the Eastside Marketplace and admiring the rare bird that normally stays well north of the U.S.-Canada border.
“He has feathered feet, that is so cool,” she said. “It’s (a) once-in-a-lifetime bird for me. I may not get a chance to see one again.”
Many avid bird-watchers keep lists of all the species they have spotted. When a rare bird is found, they spread the word so others can not only enjoy it but also add to their lists.
The rare visitor was first spotted Tuesday morning and positively identified as a hawk owl that afternoon by Terry Gray of Moscow. He filled out a rare bird report and news of it quickly made the rounds via email listserves and websites like ebird.org. Local birders from Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston soon showed up to take a look and perhaps add a bird to their life lists.
“It’s kind of cool. It’s amazing how fast word gets out there through the different listserves and ebird on rare bird sightings,” said Gray. “It’s kind of fun.”
Later in the day, people from farther away started to show up. Gray said he met a carload of women from Boise who headed north as soon as they got word.
Keith Carlson of Lewiston was one of the early arrivals and said the bird didn’t disappoint.
“He’s a real piece of work,” he said. “He just sits there and he’s an experienced hunter. I saw him try to, and to catch, two mice this morning. He just sits in one or two trees and watches. All of a sudden he launches off and boom, he catches one and flies back up and eats it.”
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, northern hawk owls prefer coniferous or mixed forests near open areas. They live year-round in Canada and Alaska. When food is scare during tough winters, the birds sometimes move south in large numbers, known as an irruption. Gray said there is no evidence this bird is associated with an irruption.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birdwatcher/photographer Ron Dexter, who lives north of Spokane, snapped this sweet image of the northern hawk owl that's been catching a lot of attention in the Spokane area for the past two weeks.
The bird has been hunting mice and voles along Prewett Road in west Spokane County.
“This is only the 4th hawk owl seen in Spokane County since 1993,” Dexter reports. “It hunts early in the morning, rests through the middle of the day and begins hunting again around 2 p.m.”
WILDLIFE — Spokane wildlife photographer Tom Munson hunted the West Plains with his camera Monday and used a big lens and stacks of tele-converters to bag a very long distance image of a northern hawk owl. The critter from boreal forests has sent Spokane birders scrambling to add bird — roaming south of its normal range — to their year list.