Endangered Northern Spotted Owl

northern spotted owl and barred owl

At left, a northern spotted owl is pictured in a photo taken by Elyse Omernick. At right, a barred owl is pictured in a photo taken by Ken Shults.

The northern spotted owl is a threatened species, protected by both the state and federal governments under the Endangered Species Act. More importantly, Marin County, the northern spotted owl’s southernmost range, supports one of their last stable populations in the world.

"Why are northern spotted owls drastically declining all over the Pacific Northwest, and why has Marin been able to maintain a stable population until now? Although habitat loss from logging old growth forests remains one of the owl’s two primary threats, the second is the invasion of the barred owl, which has become a complex threat to the northern spotted owl.

"Originally found only in eastern North America, the barred owl has made its way to the West Coast due to changes in habitat and climate. The first known sighting of a barred owl in Marin was recorded in 2002 and, sadly, the sightings are rising. The barred owl is larger, more aggressive, more adaptable and an opportunistic hunter. Because of these traits, they are competing with the spotted owl’s food source, disrupt nesting and are pushing the spotted owls out of their territory. Sadly, the northern spotted owl is not the only species of owl at risk due to the rising number of barred owls on the West Coast. The northern pygmy owl and western screech owl are also losing habitat to, or being killed and eaten by the barred owl. Their growing presence is creating multiple disturbances throughout our forests.

Read more in the Marin IJ 


If you come see a northern spotted owl or a barred owl, please report it promptly:

On federal lands: Email Bill Merkle, National Parks Service wildlife biologist, at bill_merkle@nps.gov.
On Marin County lands: Email Serena Hubert, Marin County Parks, SHubert@marincounty.org
On MMWD lands: Email Carl Sanders, MMWD biologist, at csanders@marinwater.org
On other lands: Email Renée Cormier, Point Blue avian biologist, at rcormier@pointblue.org
California Department of Fish & Wildlife: Email Amanda Culpepper, an environmental scientist for Marin and Solano counties, at Amanda.culpepper@wildlife.ca.gov

Report the size, eye color, ear tufts, markings, behavior, and location. If possible, provide a photo and/or recording. As you can see by the photos above and as their names imply, the northern spotted owl has a spotted brown and white pattern on its chest, while the barred owl has a barred brown and white pattern.