The Northern subspecies of the Spotted Owl has received much media attention because of the ongoing, controversial logging of the old-growth forest that comprises its favored habitat. Up to 85 percent of its original habitat has been lost, which has led to ongoing population declines.
There are four recognized subspecies of this owl; the Northern and Mexican were listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 1990s, and areas of Critical Habitat were designated to help recover populations. Despite these actions, Northern Spotted Owl numbers continue to decline at a rate of 2.9 percent per year.
The biggest threat to the Spotted Owl is the loss and degradation of its habitat due to clear-cutting, fragmentation, and fire suppression. Competition with the more aggressive Barred Owl, which has spread west into Northern Spotted Owl territories, also poses a significant threat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a final recovery plan for the Northern Spotted Owl in June 2011, with goals of protecting the best of its remaining habitat, actively managing forests to improve forest health, and reducing competition from Barred Owls.
See ABC's Bird News Network for a new video report on Spotted Owls!