A Reluctant Participant

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.

4 Replies to “A Reluctant Participant”

  1. Beautiful owl! We rarely see any in our part of the world (Eastern Townships of the Province of Quebec). Thank you for sharing the excellent photo! 🙂


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