The Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) is one of Canada’s most endangered species. Its entire Canadian range occurs in southwestern British Columbia.
Though historic estimates suggest that as many as 1,000 Spotted Owls occurred in the province pre-European settlement, currently fewer than 30 individuals remain in Canada, with more than half of those owls residing at the NSO Breeding Facility in Langley, BC.
The primary threat to Spotted Owls is habitat loss and fragmentation through industrial activities and human expansion. Additional threats include competition from the similar Barred Owl that has invaded the Spotted Owl’s range in recent decades.
The NSO Breeding Program began in 2007 with a founding population of six adult Spotted Owls. There are currently 20 Spotted Owls residing at the breeding facility, including four breeding pairs.
As this is the first and only breeding program for this species in the world, the team has had to overcome challenges to better understand the behaviors and husbandry techniques required to successfully breed this species. The Program applies husbandry techniques such as: double clutching, artificial incubation, and hand rearing to increase the number of eggs produced and to give chicks the best chance for survival.
The Program's mission is to prevent this species from becoming extirpated from Canada by releasing captive-raised Spotted Owls back into habitat protected for the species in the province.
During the 2017 breeding season the NSO Team welcomed two chicks, Chick B and Chick D. Chick B is the first offspring for newly formed pair, Sally and Watson. Chick D is the second born to Scud and Shania. Both chicks are second-generation captive born Spotted Owls, which gives the Program confidence that captive born owls will be able to reproduce successfully.
Both chicks were artificially incubated for 32 days prior to hatching, which took an additional 85 hours! The chicks finally hatched on April 12 and April 19, 2017 and were hand raised before being returned to their parents.
The chicks have continued to grow more and more each day and left their nests in late May. As of July, the chicks are now able to fly all over their aviaries, but still rely on Mom and Dad to bring them food. They will be full grown and independent from their parents in the Fall, at which time they will undergo a routine veterinary exam and the team at the facility will find out if they are male or female.