Toilet Vent Screens Save Birds

owl toiletA vault toilet is a more or less a permanent porta-potty, used in places without running water. Many state and federal agencies are fond of them. I’m fairly certain that I’ve used one in a National Forest recently.

The problem is small, cavity nesting birds. They see that pipe, think it’s a cavity, slide down into the pit and are unable to get out. At particular risk are western screech and northern saw whet owls, says a recent USDA blog post.

Recently, the Forest Service’s Wings Across America gave an award to the Teton Raptor Center for its Poo-Poo Project. According to the project’s website: “In 2010, Teton Raptor Center initiated a community driven project to install 100 screens on the ventilation pipes of toilets throughout Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.”

Problem solved. Are the vault toilet vents in your state capped?

The Poo Poo project sells the screened vent caps for about $30 each, including hardware and shipping and handling. They offer a bulk rate too. The order form is here.

Here’s the US Forest Service blog post.
Here’s the Poo Poo Project website.

Photo: This is what an owl stuck in a vault toilet looks like. USDA Forest Service photo.


Troublesome Creatures

spotted owlEfforts around the country to remove troublesome creatures — whether invasive or otherwise — have been met with a variety of reactions. In all cases the creatures are being removed because they are harming an ecosystem.

No one seems to mind that California Fish and Wildlife Department is removing South African clawed frogs from Golden Gate Park. The frogs are not native to the area, they completely destroy the habitats they invade, and they carry a fungus that is deadly to native amphibians. Read about the recovery effort in Bay Nature.

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources would like there to be fewer invasive mute swans. Mute swans are aggressive and don’t allow the native trumpeter swans or loons to nest. (They also have it in for ducks and geese.) Plus, they eat so many wetland plants that they can destroy wetlands. Oiling eggs has been too costly and too slow, so the department will begin to kill mute swans. Michigan Live has published several articles on the subject.
Here’s Michigan Live on why.
Here’s the plan in one county.
And here the reaction to the plan in that county.

And then there are barred owls. They’ve long been identified as a threat to northern spotted owl recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Spotted owls rely on old-growth forests. Barred owls are not so picky, and have moved into the spotted owls’ turf as the habitat has become more variable, because the old-growth forests were cut. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to start killing barred owls to try to improve matters for the spotted owl. The Oregonian did two stories on the situation. This one several years ago. And this one now that the program has begun.
There’s been no shortage of news coverage. See a lot of it here.

Photo: Spotted owl, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Delaware Studies Owls; Montana Builds Nest

Barn_owlDelaware Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists began banding barn owls at the beginning of June. Since the annual banding project began in 1996, the biologists have banded 598 barn owls, a division press release says.

The bands let the scientists collect data on the birds’ life span, home range, nest site fidelity, and migratory patterns, and also allow them to estimate population size. Birds banded in Delaware have also been spotted in Maryland and New Jersey.

Read the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife press release here.
See the action on the Delaware DNREC YouTube channel, here.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks teamed up with the Audubon Society to rebuild a great horned owl nest in a state park this season. Great horned owls don’t build their own nests, the article in the Seattle Post-Intellingencer explained. The nest the owls had been using for years was falling apart.

Normally, a great horned owl pair would move on to a more freshly built nest, at this point, but visitors enjoyed have the owls nesting in the park, so a new nest was built. The Associated Press article, which ran in the Seattle paper, reports that the owls approved of the new nest. They raised three owlets in it this season.

Read the AP story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here.

Photo: Barn owl by Dr.Thomas G. Barnes/University of Kentucky, used courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Global Owl Project

burrowing owlsWhen I saw that The New York Times had published an article on the Global Owl Project, I put that news at the top of my list. A new global effort to study owls that was robust enough to attract the attention of the Gray Lady is something you would want to know about, I thought.

The article itself is more of a round-up of cool owl facts. That’s interesting enough, I suppose. But really, it included almost nothing on the Global Owl Project.

Read The New York Times article here.

But what about the Global Owl Project? A glance at its website shows that it has been around for several years. In fact, the site says that the project was supposed to last five years and wrap up in 2008. Six papers on owls were published under its aegis. (Including a recently-uploaded report on how to build artificial burrows for burrowing owls, which looks helpful.)

Get info on the project from its briefing paper (here).

Photo: Burrowing owls by Lee Karney, used courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Great Gray Owl Study in Wyoming

great gray owlIt seems to be Wyoming week here at State Wildlife News. I hope you’ll forgive one more Wyoming story: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department are partnering with Craighead Beringia South, a non-profit research institute (yeah, them again) to study great gray owls in the Teton/Jackson Hole region, an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide says.

“Great grays are probably the least-studied species of raptor in North America,” says Bryan Bedrosian, a researcher with Craighead Beringia South, in the article.

Up to 12 owls will be fitted with GPS backpacks for the study, which will evaluate a US Forest Service project that will clear brush and remove dead trees in the region.

Read the Jackson Hole News and Guide article here (on the Craighead Beringia South website).

Photo: Great gray owl in Oregon, by Don Virgovic, courtesy US Forest Service

Raptor-Killing Poison Ban Starts Soon in Canada

Bald_EaglePotent second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs; aka, rat poisons) kill birds, particularly raptors in the United States and Canada. Canada will ban sales of these poisons on January 1, while in the U.S. talk of banning consumers from using the poisons has been around for a while, but never seems to be enacted.

“In a study of more than 130 dead birds of prey found in and around Vancouver, Canada, ‘virtually 100%’ of the owls and a large proportion of the hawks had residues of at least one second-generation AR in their livers,” said a news story in the journal Nature last month.

The Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre blog illustrates just how tough it can be to diagnose AR poisoning in raptors. A toxics screen of the bird’s liver may be the only sign that AR poisoning was the cause of death, the blog says.

Read the Nature article, here.
Read the CCWHC blog post, here.

We’ve covered this subject before. Read one of our previous posts, here.

Photo: bald eagle by Dave Menke, USFWS