Photo Study Of The Banding Of Northern Saw-whet Owls In Schuykill County, PA, November 18, 2010
had an amazing evening yesterday watching Scott Weidensaul and his banding team
capture, band and release two Northern Saw-whet Owls. Their banding station
is on a ridge
on private land near Friedensburg, Schuykill County, PA. They set up four mist nets, seven nights a week, weather permitting, during October, November and the beginning
of December to capture the Northern Saw-whets. They then inspect, weigh, band, measure, sex and photograph the birds, meticulously recording the data, before releasing these
beautiful little raptors so they can continue their migration southward.
Scott Weidensaul And Friend
From left to right, Banding Volunteers
Karen Light, Richard Light, Scott Weidensaul, Benjamin Vizzachero and his grandmother Dr. Ann Rhoads, Pat Trego
Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus)
found only in North America. Their
range includes southern Alaska, southern Canada, most of the United
and some high elevation sites in central Mexico.They inhabit woodlands of all types throughout their range. Though they seem to be most abundant in coniferous forests, they
are also common in deciduous and mixed conifer-deciduous forests. During migration and winter, Saw-whet owls inhabit a wide variety of habitats over a range of altitudes and
latitudes. They may be found in rural or even suburban environments. The primary habitat requirements seem to be perches for hunting and dense vegetation for roosting.
Northern Saw-whet Owls are the smallest owls in eastern North America. At approximately 2.5 ounces males weigh about as much as an American robin. Females weigh
slightly more, at about 3.5 ounces. The body lengths of males and females are 7 to 8 inches and 8 to 8.5 inches respectively. The wingspan of an adult ranges from 18 to 24
inches. Northern Saw-whets have dark-colored bills, eyes with yellow-pigmented irises, heavily feathered legs and feet, a tail with three bars, and a wide, reddish-brown body
with white streaks on the abdomen. Their large, round heads are reddish brown to brown, have a large, grayish facial disk in the center and are streaked with white on the top.
The neck is speckled with white. Northern Saw-whet Owls depend on this plumage for camouflage while roosting and hunting. Male and female Saw-whet Owls are similar in
appearance, though females are slightly larger than males. Juveniles are chocolate-brown with a pattern of large white spots above their bills that extend over their eyes.
In the wild, the average lifespan of a Northern Saw-whet Owl is 3.5 to 4 years, The record for a wild bird, however, is 16 years. Northern Saw-whet Owls are nocturnal.
They are active at night, and roost silently in thick vegetation during the day. This species is also migratory. Though some individuals may stay in the same area year-round,
the majority of Northern Saw-whets move south in autumn. Northern Saw-whet Owls are solitary. They hunt at night, from about 30 minutes after sunset to about 30 minutes
before sunrise. They hunt from a low perch, detecting prey by sight and sound. But Northern Saw-whet Owls also have excellent hearing; their asymmetrical skull allows them
to locate prey using sound alone. When a prey item is located, the owl drops out of the perch onto the prey, capturing it with the talons. The prey is torn apart and eaten in
pieces. Larger prey may be partially eaten and stored on a branch to eat over the course of several hours. The Northern Saw-whet Owl diet consists primarily of small mammals,
particularly deer mice, voles, shrews, shrew-moles, pocket-mice, harvest mice, bog lemmings, heather voles, red tree voles, jumping mice and house mice. Juveniles of larger
mammals, including pocket-gophers, chipmunks and squirrels are occasionally taken, as are insects, such as beetles and grasshoppers. Small birds are also occasionally taken,
primarily during migration when they are active at night. (Cornell BNA; Wikipedia; University of Michigan)
One Of The Northern Saw-whet Owls Banded Last Evening
An Unbanded Northern Saw-whet Owl Photographed
At Peace Valley Park, Bucks County, PA, In March, 2008
Seven Biology Students From Canisius College Drove Down From Buffalo, NY To Observe The Banding Process
knows that Scott Weidensaul is an outstanding naturalist, ornithologist,
bander and author. I would be remiss if I didn't say that he is also an outstanding
Just watching him explain the whys, whats and hows of Saw-whet banding to the Canisius students as well as his interaction with them throughout the evening was wonderful!
The Banding Process
1. Scott Weighs The Bagged Owl 2. Scott Removes The Owl From The Bag
3. Scott Bands The Owl 4. Scott Examines Wing Pattern And Molt Condition To Help Establish Age
5. Ultraviolet Light Also Helps Establish Age 6. Scott Measures Tail Length
7. Wing And Tail Length With Weight Sets Gender 8. Measuring Length of The Owl's Beak
9. Scott Holds This Newly Banded Hatch Year Female Northern Saw-whet Owl
Getting Ready To Acclimate It To Darkness For Five Minutes Just Before Release
To see a larger image of any of the photos below, please click on either the thumbnails or the captions...thanks!
here to go to the Ned Smith Center For Nature & Art Homepage
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