Protecting and enhancing the natural values of Salt Spring Island and its surrounding waters



Owls are birds of prey that have forward-facing eyes and a face that is disk-shaped or saucer-shaped, trapping sound waves and light waves. The predatory behaviour of owls is also aided by their hawk-like beak, talons, camouflage coloration, and feather structure enabling near-silent flight. Owls often swallow whole animals, then regurgitate the undigestible parts of the meal (hair, bones, feathers) in pellets that may be found on the ground near the nest.

Owls do not build typical bird nests, rather they may nest on the ground, on ledges, on platforms, in tree cavities, and commonly occupy abandoned nests of other bird species.

Rodenticides (rat poisons) threaten owl populations in BC. Newer rodenticides are potent blood thinners. These poisons can kill rats but travel through the food chain to kill or damage other animals as well. In a 2009 study where 164 dead owls were tested in BC, 70% of the owls had at least one anticoagulant rodenticide in their livers. Rodenticides may kill the owls outright, or affect their fitness in other ways, such as altering their ability to fly (leading to increased vehicle collisions) or causing them to bleed to death. Suggestions to help with this problem include reducing use of rodenticides, applying rodenticides in closed areas only, cleaning up garbage that attracts rodents, and using traps, such as new traps that shock rats killing them quickly.

Eight species of owls have been sighted on Salt Spring, and are shown below. Those most commonly encountered are the barred owl and the western screech owl.

The Conservancy welcomes reports of owl sightings if the species has been identified. Sightings can be reported via email to or via telephone to (250) 538-0318.

Western Screech Owl

Megascops kennicottii kennicottii The western screech owl is a small owl measuring 19 – 26 cm (less than a foot long), grey-brown in appearance with dark wavy stripes on the breast. The eyes are yellow and

Barn Owl

Tyto alba This medium-sized owl stands 30 -37 cm (just over a foot), and has a unique light-coloured heart-shaped face with dark eyes and a light beak. This owl has been observed in the