Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blakiston's Fish Owl

The Blakiston's Fish Owl might possibly be the largest of all the owl species. Bubo blakistoni weighs a massive 4kg and sports a wingspan of up to 190cm. They live in one very specific area in the entire world, namely a small little chunk of Northeast Asia. Their are two subspecies, one that lives on the mainland in areas that are part of Russia and China, and one on the northern Japanese islands and Russia's Kuril Islands. Their may be birds in North Korea, but the nature of that political situation makes it difficult to go in and get an estimate.

(Image Source)
Blakiston's Fish Owls are quite endangered. There are only a few thousand left, if that, and the island subspecies is down to only a few hundred. This decline in population has been a result of habitat loss. Blakiston's Fish Owls live in very old, dense forests that are near large rivers, and this type of habitat has been on the decline due to construction and forest clearing. Another major threat to these birds is general human encroachment. Birds in Japan sometimes get hit by cars or trapped in power lines.

Despite the name,  Blakiston's Fish Owls eat more than fish. They also feed off of small mammals, waterfowl, crustaceans, and amphibians. The most common hunting tactic observed is dropping down on prey from a low perch. Small meals are brought back to a perch and consumed, while larger targets will be partially consumed on the spot.

Blakiston's Fish Owls mate for life, and each breeding pair inhabits a specific territory. They are believed to non-migratory over large distances, though they might make small, seasonally based movements.. They pair does not breed each year, and it is suspected that breeding is dictated by environmental factors. One or two eggs are laid at a time, and the female incubates while the male hunts and brings back food. After the eggs have hatched, both parents take turns hunting. Chicks fledge around 50 days.

Blakiston's Fish Owls are protected by the nations that they are native to, and there are a handful of captive breeding and release programs. A major problem in their conservation is that despite the fact that the birds are protected, their habitat is not. A national park has been proposed for part of their Russian range, but as of right now it is only a suggestion.

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