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Spotted Owl Nesting in Colorado

Samuel W. Gadd
Publication Information
1 (January-February)
From Field and Study

Spotted Owl Nesting in Colorado

One specimen taken and three sight records have established a place for the Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) in the Colorado state list. C. E. H. Aiken had a specimen brought to him in 1875 that was killed near Colorado Springs; this is now in the Colorado College collection. He also saw one in the same region in June or July of 1873. From this latter observation Aiken assumed that the species probably bred that year. Two other sight reports come from the extreme southern and western parts of the state (La Plata and Costilla counties).

These data have led many subsequent authors (A.O.U. Check-list, F. M. Bailey, Peterson, Sclater, and others) to assume broadly that the Spotted Owl ranges north to include southern Colorado. Bent (U. S. Nat. Mus. Bull. 170,1938:207) has regarded the presence of this bird in the state list as resting on “slender evidence.”

Consequently it was with great interest that I found two juvenal Spotted Owls in a live animal exhibit near Hartsel, Park County, in the very center of Colorado, on September 1, 1941. The birds were being exhibited as “Rock Owls,” and I was told,by the owner that they came from a ranch approximately forty miles north of Hartsel, where two boys had taken them from the nest. The nest location was described as “back in the timber where there are plenty of rocks,” obviously in the Transition Zone, or higher. No more could be learned about the conditions of the find.

I took careful notes at the time. The young birds were of fairly large size, though not as large as the abundant Horned Owls ; the large head, at this stage heavily downed, the black irises, dark feathers of the breast, and white in the wings, along with the familiar build of a Barred Owl, made the identification quite positive.

The interest in this observation lies in the fact that it is the first definite indication of the Spotted Owl nesting in Colorado and that it comes from what is best described as north-central Colorado, more than 180 miles north of the New Mexico line. The locality is in the Transition Zone, the lowest life-zone in the area. The record may be of some value also in confirming the assumptions that the Spotted Owl occurs in the more southerly portions of the state.

Samuel W. Gadd

Colorado Springs, Colorado, October 4, 1941;

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