Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saw Whet Owl Banding

So Casey & her mom, & my dad and me all went to Drumlin Farm for a Saw Whet Owl banding workshop. It was my first time seeing these little owls, and they are a cute as legend suggest. Also, all pictures in this post were taken by Casey as I am currently a cripple with a broken finger & a cast.

Due to storm damage we were not able to enter the woods to view the mist nets, so the banding was done at the main station area. Prior to banding the owls there was a great presentation by the Drumlin staff / banding team on their decade of data with these little owls. Tons of information about their migrations & movements, and also about their ecology & breeding behaviors.

It seems most of the birds caught are first year birds, with some second year birds intermittently.  Unlike most owls species who have 2ish young,  saw whet's have a number of young. They are more like song birds in that they have larger  egg clutches due to high  mortality rates. Which, when you see how small these little owls are it is easy to guess that lots of other critters... eat them.

Another fascinating stat from their data is the movements of the Mass birds alone. It seems birds banded at the various sites across the state follow / move across different routes than the birds at other sites. Showing that different groups of saw-whets have different migration patterns than other groups, vs. typical routes followed by most birds of the same species, all moving to their traditional seasonal grounds year after year. Incredible, I could go on & on but typing with one finger is quite daunting.

checking age of bird. 

Here is the Breeding birds atlas II chart  for Saw Whet's in Mass, dark green being confirmed breeding blocks. 

Weight & size shows the difference from the female to the lighter & smaller male. 

peering at the captor 

First year birds can be identified by all new feathers on the wings, as second year birds & on ( 2+ years and older ) begin to replace their various primary & secondary feathers, thus showing a light to dark color difference between the old & new feathers. 

An amazing night banding over 12 + owls, and some awesome pictures by Casey.

1 comment:

  1. The banding was an incredible experience! I wish there was a banding station closer to Plum Island. I'd be interested to see how many Saw Whets travel through this area, without us ever seeing them. But...By far the most adorable creature of the sky.