Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Boreal Owl

On this day in 1962, a Boreal Owl hit a building at Raritan Arsenal, near Bonhamtown, in Middlesex County. John Bull (1975) picks up the story by quoting a letter from Irving Black: "It was taken to the home of a boy, Joseph Mish (about 15),...and kept alive for about a week. After death it was buried carefully in a cloth. Before death there evidently had been no feeling that the bird was anything of interest, but later the boy kept pointing to illustrations of the Boreal Owl and insisted that was what his bird was. Because of this the bird was dug up in early February and brought to the Newark Museum." In what sounds like a sublime piece of understatement, Black's quote concludes, "It was in surprisingly good condition for a bird that had been dead three months."

NJ is not known for its abundance of irruptive northern owls apart from Short-eared Owls. This is the single accepted record of Boreal Owl for the state (there are two other reports). Pennsylvania has a single record of Boreal Owl from Allegheny County, about the same distance south as central NJ (McWilliams and Brauning 2000). If one wants to keep hope alive for future NJ Boreal Owl records, one can always look to the bird that showed up in Central Park a few years back. If a Boreal Owl can make it to Central Park, another can certainly find its way to NJ. At least, we can hope so.

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