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GAP Analysis Predicted Distribution Map

Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus)

Species Code: AEFU

Click to enlarge Range map

= Core Habitat
= Marginal Habitat

Breeding Range Map
The green area shows the predicted habitats for breeding only. The habitats were identified using 1991 satellite imagery, Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA), other datasets and experts throughout the state, as part of the Washington Gap Analysis Project. Habitats used during non-breeding months and migratory rest-stops were not mapped.

Metadata (Data about data or how the map was made)

Click to enlarge distribution map

Map with Breeding Bird Atlas records

Other maps & Information:
  • Breeding Bird Atlas
  • NatureMapping observations
    during breeding season
  • NatureMapping observations
    throughout the year

This species is uncommon in very high-elevation forests in Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine Fir, and Lodgepole Pine. They were rarely found below 4000 feet. Most individuals have been found in northwestern Okanogan County at high elevations. They were also possibly breeding in suitable habitat in Ferry County, Stevens County, Pend Oreille County, and the Blue Mountains, though data are lacking from recent years. Other isolated sites include high forests on Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. They were possible breeders in high subalpine forests in the Cascades south to Mount Adams, but there are no supporting data.

Good habitat in the core areas of use included conifer forests in the Subalpine Fir and Alpine/Parkland zones in western Okanogan County, northern Chelan County, Ferry County, and northeastern Pend Oreille County. Conifer forests in the Blue Mountains and near Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in the same zones, plus parts of the Mountain Hemlock zone, were peripheral.

Washington breeders represent the North American subspecies A. f. richardsoni. The Boreal Owl is certainly one of the most sought-after owls for birders in North America. Its preference for high remote forests and its strictly nocturnal habits make it difficult to detect. It has been listed by some researchers as “hypothetical,” though surely it occurred throughout much of its present range since 1953. The first record was published in 1908 of a specimen taken near Glacier in Whatcom County on January 17, 1905; the specimen was later misplaced. Years later, another (probably the second) specimen record for Washington was a winter bird collected by Richard Johnson at Pullman in Whitman County on January 10, 1974. The first well accepted breeding record for Washington, a pair with four young, was reported from Okanogan County on June 11, 1992. An earlier record of adults and fledglings in a residential area of Pullman would be extraordinary, and is controversial based on the location. There are many areas in Washington, such as in Ferry County and the Blue Mountains at high elevations, that seem to have suitable habitat, yet the status of Boreal Owls in these areas is only now becoming known. In 1994 it was reported in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, and recent work shows that Boreal Owls are regularly found in similar habitat high in Washington’s Blue Mountains, where surveys located Boreal Owls during the breeding season of 1987. Two years later, this species was also found in boreal forests of Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille Counties in Subalpine Fir, Lodgepole Pine, Engelmann Spruce, and Grand Fir forests. This species has been hard to find in many western states until recent years. In fact, no nests of Boreal Owls had been confirmed south of Canada until 1978, when a pair with five young was found in Cook County, Minnesota. Some authorities now believe that Boreal Owls are common in appropriate habitats throughout the West.

Translated from the Washington Gap Analysis Bird Volume by Uchenna Bright
Text edited by Gussie Litwer
Webpage designed by Dave Lester