The World’s Largest Owls Need Huge Trees

Photograph by Tadashi Shimada/ Nature Production / MINDEN PICTURES

The World’s Largest Owls Need Huge Trees

Scientists uncover why the Blakiston's fish owl depends on old-growth forests.

By Kate Baggaley
Published: 11/05/2013

There's a lot of mystique around Blakiston's fish owl," says Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Russia program. The world's largest owl--a caramel-colored bird with crownlike tufts of feathers and striking yellow eyes--lives in Russia's remote far eastern forests and is extremely skittish, bolting when humans come within several hundred feet. Scientists knew these birds used old-growth forests for nesting, but until recently they didn't know the same woodlands are key to supporting healthy populations of salmon, the owls' favorite prey. When towering trees die and topple into streams, the woody debris creates a mix of fast-moving channels and deeper, slower backwaters that salmon use at various points in their life cycle, Slaght and colleagues report in Oryx. As humans cut down these trees to get through the forest, they are coming into closer contact with the shy bird of prey. Human encroachment, says Slaght, makes conserving the birds' habitat even more important, since it also safeguards the other species that depend on this unique ecosystem.

This story originally ran in the November-December 2013 issue as "Arbor Ardor."

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I just wanted to say that I

I just wanted to say that I am a new "birder" and am very interested in doing my part in saving our wildlife. I have a huge brush pile in my yard and in the winter houses hundreds of birds, at least 100, and people want to burn it. I say "no" my birds and other critters need it in the winter especially, and in the summer to keep them safe from predators. I feed the wildlife in my yard also. I have two acres that have many safe havens for animals that visit my yard.

I just wanted to say that I

I just wanted to say that I am a new "birder" and am very interested in doing my part in saving our wildlife. I have a huge brush pile in my yard and in the winter houses hundreds of birds, at least 100, and people want to burn it. I say "no" my birds and other critters need it in the winter especially, and in the summer to keep them safe from predators. I feed the wildlife in my yard also. I have two acres that have many safe havens for animals that visit my yard.

Just look at this

Just look at this

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