Blakiston’s Fish Owl: World’s Biggest Owl is Endangered Due to Habitat Loss

Blakiston’s fish owl, the world’s biggest owl is endangered due to habitat degradation. It is the largest living species of owl, which specialize in hunting in riparian areas. Its habitat is riparian forest, with large, old trees for nest-sites, near lakes, rivers, springs, and shoals that don’t freeze in winter. But forest degradation and the changing climate have posed a grave threat for the species.

These raptors, famous for their intense yellow eyes and showy ear tufts, nest in cavities of old-growth trees among the wooded river valleys. The endangered species has a six-foot wingspan which makes it the world’s biggest owl.

Named after 19th century English naturalist Thomas W. Blakiston, the owl is divided into two subspecies: Bubo blakistoni doerriesi, found on the Russian mainland and likely northeastern China, and Bubo blakistoni blakistoni, which lives in Hokkaido, Japan, Russia’s southern Kuril Islands.

Blakiston’s fish owl: World’s Biggest Owl is Endangered Due to Habitat Loss

Endangered Blakiston’s fish owl | Image: Jonathan C. Slaght

Given their limited habitat, the global population of these owls is estimated at 1,000 to 1,900 individuals. Fish owls are facing two main threats – habitat loss and the effects of climate change. The birds hunt for salmon, trout, and lamprey in icy rivers during the winter; and in springtime, the males start to store amphibians to feed their mate and their single fluffy hatchlings.

The changing climate could affect their mating and eating patterns – starving owlets to death and contributing to an eventual population decline. Reducing forest cover and logging has been destroying the natural habitat of these birds, making them vulnerable.

Though fish owls mostly nest in tall, dead trees of no commercial value, logging roads let people such as poachers, illegal loggers, and pine nut collectors access to more distant parts of the forest. Such trespassers pose a serious threat to fish owls and other endangered species by hitting animals with their vehicles or causing inadvertent wildfires.

Many experts advise that logging prohibitions in protected areas and satellite monitoring of logging activities could help the species, as it has helped protect the critically endangered Amur leopard. Endangered Blakiston’s fish owl is not the only bird species that are threatened by changing climatic conditions and habitat loss. In order to protect wildlife species from extinction, it is imperative to stop the destruction of forest areas.

Via: National Geographic 

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