Posted by: atowhee | August 29, 2016


I just got my summer issue and felt compelled to send them this letter, not necessarily expecting them to print it:

“Dear Editor:

“In your Summer, 2016, issue pages 46-47 outline some places and highlight species for boreal birding in North America.

“Gray Jay was mentioned.  Here in the west this species is often found in mountain areas far south of the boreal forest.  Near Eureka, California, it can regularly be found at low elevation not far from the Pacific Ocean in decidedly non-boreal habitat including suburban gardens.

“The lead photo on the article shows a female Great Gray Owl sitting on her nest (males don’t incubate). Thus a reader might infer that the Great Gray is a boreal specialty. Certainly it is a species one would not expect to find in most states in the nation. Surely the largest American population of this species is found in the boreal forests. However, this flexible bird nests as far south as Fresno County, California. In Oregon the birds can be found in oak/madrone forests not far from the Rogue River. They also nest in lowland oak chaparral in the Sierra Foothills south of Sacramento.

“While on the state endangered species list in California (where fewer than 300 Great Gray Owls are estimated to live), Oregon has a sizeable if elusive population.  Jackson County in the southwest and Union County in the northeast are Great Gray Owl hotspots.  Each has an annual May bird festival where nesting Great Grays are a highlight:  Ladd Marsh Festival in La Grande and Mountain Bird Festival in Ashland.  This species is sedentary along the Pacific Slope, rarely wandering far from its breeding territory.

“I am the co-author of the book, Great Gray Owls of California Oregon and Washington. It is often supposed that these owls are largely boreal as they were first discovered not in Europe but in northern Canada.  Pacific Coast discoveries came more than a century later.  The first nest in California was found in 1914, in Oregon in the 1950s and not until 1991 was one confirmed in Washington State. We now know that the boreal forest is only one of the species’ many possible habitats in North America.”



  1. Nice letter Harry.

  2. Good going.

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