Boreal Owl (c) J. Slaght
A Tengmalm’s (or Boreal) owl. Photograph © Jonathan C. Slaght

One night, while mist-netting for larger owls, my Russian colleagues and I were surprised to find a Tengmalm’s owl in our net. This diminutive bird—which for some reason reminds me of a sprinkle-covered chocolate cupcake—is better known in North America as a boreal owl. The species is scattered at low densities across the coniferous forest belt from Alaska to Ontario and Norway to Kamchatka; smudges of brown and white difficult to discern among the shadows and grey lines of the dark forests they call home.This one had likely been stalking a vole when it dropped noiselessly into our near-invisible net; a mistake we took advantage of by snapping photos, taking measurements, and collecting a DNA sample.

The owl wiggled throughout this process and chirped its indignation; a reluctant participant in our pursuit of knowledge. Upon release, he quickly melted into the forest with a turn and a few quick flaps on silent wings; alighting to roost once more among the aromatic firs.


This post originally appeared on May 13, 2015, as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog.