Stories & Features

Meet Chick D, a spotted owl you can watch online

Spotted owlet - Chick D. at Langley breeding centre
Fragile after hatching in mid-April, the northern spotted owlet Chick D. spent two weeks in intensive care before being returned to its nest at the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Centre in Langley.

Webcam monitors recently-hatched owl at Langley breeding centre

Shania, Scud & Chick D.

What sounds like it might be a group of hip hop artists is actually a family of northern spotted owls, the most endangered of owls in Canada. It's a family that’s been making headlines this spring.

Shania is the first northern spotted owl ever born in captivity, in 2008. And under the close eye of the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Program, she has been responsible (along with her male partner Scud) for two more owls hatched in the spring of 2016 and 2017.

The latest addition to a total northern owl population of 20 or fewer birds is Chick D., who was one of two eggs Shania laid on April 19th. Each hatch is key, as it's estimated that there are fewer than 20 northern spotted owls remaining in the wild in B.C.

A fragile Chick D. took 84 hours to hatch and, spent 15 days in intensive care at the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Centre in Langley before being returned to the nest. But as Chick D. gets stronger, you’ll see more action in an online "owl nest cam" that’s on 24 hours a day.

"This web camera showcases Canada's most endangered owl as a breeding pair nest and raise this chick in May and June," says Karen McKeogh, an owl biologist at the breeding centre. "The camera is situated right over the nest – a hollowed-out stump – giving us some great images."

The breeding program is supported by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations, and public stakeholders.

Two spotted owls - Shania & Scud at Langley-area breeding centre
Proud parents Shania (left) and Scud hang out at the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Centre near Langley.

Juvenile owls to be released into old-growth forest

Started in 2007, the breeding program's goal is to restore the wild population to over 200 adult northern spotted owls by releasing up to 20 juvenile owls per year over the next 10 to 15 years. If all goes well with breeding this year, owls will be released into 300,000 hectares of old-growth forest, which has been protected for this purpose.

After a long courtship with Scud, a wild-caught owl first introduced to Shania in 2014, the couple welcomed their first chick, Elliott, in April of 2016. Elliott will become incorporated into the breeding program as soon as he’s of reproductive age. This spring, Chick D. hatched from one of two eggs produced by Shania, as the other egg was not fertile.

The live streaming of the nest is being hosted by the FWCP, whose mission is to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by BC Hydro dams.

"The northern spotted owl is listed in our Species of Interest Action Plan," says FWCP manager Trevor Oussoren. "It is anticipated that the first of the spotted owls will be released into the Bridge-Seton Watershed near Lillooet, which is one of 14 Coastal watersheds we operate in."

The breeding program is now poised to begin producing significant numbers of juveniles in captivity, and plans to begin releasing owls into the wild in 2018.

"The peak times for seeing activity on the nest is between 8 and 11 in the morning, and 6 and 10 in the evening," added McKeogh. "This is because we provide food to the adults during this time, although it's hard to predict when they will actually deliver the food to the chick."

About northern spotted owls and the FWCP

One of the reasons the northern spotted owl is at risk in Canada is due to habitat loss from a variety of human activities such as timber harvesting and human settlement, including the creation of reservoirs.

In addition to funding the breeding program, the FWCP has also funded research and monitoring on the owls. With $9.4 million in funding coming directly from BC Hydro, the FWCP is supporting 102 fish and wildlife projects across B.C. in 2017 and 2018.