Saw-whet Owl Banding

I had a great experience Saturday night participating in the Saw-Whet Owl banding operation at the Linwood Springs Research Station in Stevens Point, WI. Right now the Saw-Whet Owl migration is peaking here in Wisconsin as the owls (mostly females and juveniles) head south for the winter. See the Saw-Whet Owl's range here.

Gene Jacobs runs this research station, which conducts studies on Sharp-shinned and Red-shouldered Hawks, in addition to Saw-whet Owls. Gene and his interns band 500-700 owls annually. Here Gene is explaining the molting patterns of the Saw-whet owl.

When the owls get processed, the wing feathers get marked with a non-toxic, blue marker. Gene is assisting in a study on the Saw-whet's molt pattern. By marking the wings, Gene and other banders can determine the molt strategy and sequence on individual birds over time.

This is the ear of a Saw-whet owl. Like the larger Great Gray Owl, Saw-whets have ears that are asymmetrical, allowing them to triangulate the position of prey via sound. A very convenient product of evolution for birds that hunt in the dark.
Here I am with "Hootie", an owl that my wife and I adopted for our daughters. For a small donation, the adoption gives us a certificate with Hootie's band number, age, weight, etc.. We will also get updates on any re-captures of Hootie, should she find her way into another mist-net during her migratory life. Our kids were excited to have their own owl, even though we weren't able to bring Hootie home.

This year, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) hosted 3 Saw-whet Owl banding trips to the Linwood Research Station. The NRF is a wonderful organization devoted to conservation efforts here in Wisconsin. Their field trip program offers participants the opportunity to get a world class education about Wisconsin's wildlife and ecology directly from experts in the field. I would highly encourage anyone with an interest in the outdoors to check this program out.


Mike McDowell said...

Very cool, Ben.

Mike M.

Diana Sudyka said...

I am very jealous that you got to hold a live Saw-whet (Hootie looks a bit irate!). When I work on owls at the Field Museum, I am always amazed at the size of their ears. What a great program.

Ben Lizdas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Lizdas said...

eah, Hootie didn't appreciate the paparazzi. If she only understood that these minor irritations are all part of being a celebrity owl (and well worth it I might add).
I am glad to report that she quickly got over it though.

elizabird said...

That is a great photo...what a great experience.
See you soon.

Christopher said...

I've attended a few Saw-whet banding demos and they are always fantastic - especially if you can get kids involved! This year I'll be going on the 24th which is about peak time here in MA, and reading your post has really got me jazzed up for it!

Anonymous said...

I am really interested in banding am am working on getting my liscense. I'm so jealous you got to hold a saw-whet! I need to find a bander to work with to get my hours.