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Rare photos of the threatened birds

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The northern saw-whet owl found only on Haida Gwaii is a distinct subspecies that has undergone a dramatic population decline over the past decade. In 2006, the Committee On The Status Of Endangered Wildlife In Canada estimated there were only about 1,900 birds left on the islands, and the numbers have fallen by about 13 per cent over the past decade.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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The small birds have distinctive yellow eyes, a prominent round face and are only about 20 centimetres long. They prefer to nest in old growth forest and their decline has been directly linked to the effects of logging. The common northern saw-whet owl is found throughout North America, but the distinctive Haida Gwaii birds – northern saw-whet owl brooksi – are listed as threatened because of the small population and loss of prime, old-growth habitat.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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The province of British Columbia, Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation are collaborating on collecting data for a recovery strategy. Among other things the researchers set mist nets to capture owls, which they band, weigh and photograph. The birds live up to seven years, and begin breeding after one year. Courtship starts in March and the distinctive calls of the birds are recorded by researchers as a way of assessing habitat range.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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