Owl Program

Lasts 6 weeks : September 26 – November 6

Group of four Saw-whet Owls.

Group of four Saw-whet Owls.

The Saw-whet Owl is a relatively common species in most of its range, but remains quite poorly understood.  In recent years it has been the subject of extensive banding efforts, and MBO intends to assist with the collection and analysis of data to better understand the distribution and population structure of the species.

Nocturnal banding of Northern Saw-whet Owls has been undertaken at MBO during fall migration annually since 2004, except in 2006 and 2008. For the first four years, efforts were sporadic, between 8 and 11 nights each year, largely limited by availability of banders. The totals were modest, ranging from 15 to 17 owls per season. In 2009, the nets were moved to a different location at MBO, in and around a small grove of fir and spruce, rather than in the more shrubby deciduous woods where we had set the nets previously. In 2010, thanks to a research grant from Bird Protection Quebec, the program was extended for the first to a six-week season. We now have full coverage every fall from late September to early November, omitting only nights compromised by rain or high winds.

McGill Bird Observatory targets Northern Saw-whet Owls with a secondary focus on Boreal, Long-eared, and Eastern Screech Owls. A standard audiolure is played on a FoxPro broadcaster to attract owls. The standard banding period is 4 hours beginning 30 minutes after sunset, but when conditions are promising, non-standard banding often continues later into the night.

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