Project Owlnet

Project Owlnet

Project Owlnet is a banding project to determine the timing, intensity, and pace of migration of the Northern Saw-whet Owl. The migration of these owls was not well known before this project started in the mid-1990s. 

We’ve been hosting a site at SERC since 2017. Help us band and measure small Northern saw-whet owls to track their migrations! 

The "What" and the "Why"

What are we trying to learn?

Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owls in North America. In fall, the owls migrate down the east coast from northern Canada to as far as Georgia. Their small size makes them easy prey for larger predatory birds. To avoid becoming a snack, saw-whets stay silent while they travel. Saw-whet owls are also only active at night. These traits make saw-whets difficult to study. Currently, very little is known about these tiny owls and their migration habits.

Why study owls? 

Scientists used to think saw-whet owls were very rare. Now we know that their population increases and decreases over the course of several years. It is likely that the number of owls coincides with the amount of food available. But as we learn more about them, more questions arise. Are the changes we see in their population and migration natural? Or are the changes due to human activity? If the owls are sensitive to human activity, can we use them to understand our impact on the forests they live in? By participating in SERC's saw-whet owl banding project, you can help us answer these big questions. 

 

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Citizen Science

Methods

The SERC saw-whet owl banding project will start on Monday, October 22 and continue through Wednesday, November 21. Each night, volunteers set up mist nets with an audiolure placed in the middle of the net array. Volunteers will check the nets each hour. For each owl caught, volunteers record data on the owl’s appearance, health, size, sex, and weight. Where and when the owl was caught is also documented. The owls are given individually numbered bands issued by the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory. Then they are released, unharmed, to continue their journey.

Photo by Carl Benson

 

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Citizen Science

Get Involved

We would not be able to complete as large of a project or have as large of a dataset without help from committed volunteers. Without you, it would be very difficult for us to study saw-whet owls here at SERC.

Eligibility and Time Commitment

We ask that volunteers be able to join us for a full evening. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old to help out with the field activities. Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Location and Days/Times

Volunteers will be needed to measure and record data on the owls' appearance and health. Certain days are dedicated to the project (check the SERC calendar for days) and time slots are available each night (weather permitting). Volunteers can meet us at the Reed Education Center in Edgewater, MD where we will be collecting data.

To sign up or for more information: 

Contact Alison Cawood, SERC Citizen Science Coordinator, at cawooda@si.edu or (443) 482-2271.

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Citizen Science