My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

My Irruption Northern Saw-whet Owl Year

Northern  Saw-whet Owl
First Northern Saw-whet Owl of the Season.

This year the Allegany State Park (Northern Saw-whet Owl) banding station was open for 28 nights and captured 83 different individuals with 90 total NSWO captures. We did not capture the hundreds of owls like the big migration sites but this stations numbers this season was significantly better than my previous three years of banding combined. The last two weeks in November resulted in very bad weather conditions (lake effect, strong winds and rain) which considerably reduced the number of net hours that the station typically operates.

Captured Individuals

% Male

% Female

% Unkown Sex

% Hatch Year

% After Hatch Year

Birds per 100 net hours

































The percentage of captured males / female / unknown sex were fairly consistent with the 3 previous year’s percentages. With a lower percentage (30 %) of Adult birds vs. the higher percentage (70%) of Hatch Year birds tells us that the Northern Saw-whet Owls showed a better success rate of raising their young this summer. As expected the banding station had significantly increased the birds per 100 net hours due to this being the biggest Northern Saw-whet Owl irruption in many years (protocols did not change from what was done in 2005 and 2006). On the 15th October 2007 had station had its best night with 16 individual birds captured and 1 bird had returned to the mist net within that same evening. The next two big nights were on the 13th and 28th of October with us capturing 8 newly banded birds on both evenings. We only had one individual who was recaptured again within 4 days of its original capture and that bird gained 1 gram during its stopover.

Participating Project Owlnet Stations.

Part of being involved with Project Owlnet is that it allows us banders to network and share our knowledge with other Northern Saw-whet Owl banders across Northern America. We are able to look for unique differences or similarities throughout each of the stations by using similar protocols. The observations this year across the East Cost were the record numbers of captures at each station and the high numbers of Hatch Year birds captured.

Funny Bill
Overgrown Upper Mandible.

Being networked also allows us banders to quickly discuss unusual finds like my deformed upper mandible owl. I was given the opportunity to discuss this bird with Colleen Handel who is a research wildlife biologist at the USGS Alaska Science Center and one of the lead biologists studying the bill deformities in the Alaska area. Colleen believed this was the first report of a bill deformity in the Northern Saw-whet Owls (that she is aware of) and this deformity is more commonly found in some of our smaller birds like Chickadees. She stated in an email that “we are working on understanding what the cause of the bill deformities is and investigating the possibilities of disease, parasites, or nutritional problems (and perhaps a combination of any of these). We are still quite puzzled by the large concentration of deformities in Alaska compared with elsewhere”.

Northern Saw-whet Owl
One of our Foreign Recaptured N. Saw-whet Owls.

On occasion we capture foreign owls that were originally banded by another bander. After reporting these finds to the Bird Banding Lab the Project Owlnet network will sometimes assist in quickly connecting our wonderful find with the birds original bander. This season we were able to capture 2 foreign recaptured birds but were only able to learn about one of the owl’s who had been originally captured last year in an area South East of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The other bird that had not been reported to the Bird Banding Lab yet is suspected to have originated from the Ontario, Canada area sometime this fall (but we still have not heard anything about it yet).

Harry Potter
Banding Assistant Young Naturalist J.

I would like to thank my banding assistants like Young Naturalist J and numerous other volunteers which assisted me with the banding operations. It is with their help which keeps this station in operation and they keep me entertained after my many hours of sleepless nights. The season is being scheduled to start again for the Northern Saw-whet Owl fall migration here in Allegany State Park on the 1st of October 2008. This winter we are placing an additional 15 Northern Saw-whet Owl boxes which have been constructed by an Eagle Scout from the Buffalo area. This will be in addition to 8 other boxes that have been placed by other Eagle Scout project a few years previous. I will be monitoring these boxes during the spring/summer months where we will try to keep track some of our local breeding pairs and determine where our breeders are wintering.

Barred Owl
The only Barred Owl we banded this season.

RSS feed Subscribe to Mon@rch All Rights Reserved ©2006-2007

33 responses

  1. That is good that we got to capture as many birds this single year as we did in the past 3 years! The total birds per 100 net hours was very interesting to see on how much it went up these year compared to the past years!

    7 December 2007 at 7:37 pm

  2. Thanks Young Naturalist J – it was a great year for sure but I am afraid that next season will not be as productive! Ugg! Thanks again for all your help!

    7 December 2007 at 7:46 pm

  3. Lisa at Greenbow

    The places in IN posted their numbers and it was almost unbelieveable. I wonder if it is so great? I wonder if they are in accute distress when they come down here. What will be waiting for them when they return??

    Job well done Monarch and assistants.

    7 December 2007 at 8:25 pm

  4. Great job on your numbers and terrific map! I need an active owl site closer to my house 😦
    I especially luvs the last owl pic… such sad “puppy dog” eyes! LOL

    7 December 2007 at 10:05 pm

  5. Gorgeous!! Stunning!! Beautiful closeup!! :)NG

    7 December 2007 at 10:50 pm

  6. NaturesPalette

    Those barred owls aren’t nearly as cute are they?! Great work you guys, how exciting!

    Hey Mon@rch, looks like there’s a banding station near the St. Paul/Mpls area…any idea what it’s called?

    7 December 2007 at 10:51 pm

  7. Those pictures are astonishing!

    7 December 2007 at 10:58 pm

  8. Wonderful post! Saw whet’s are the “cuties” of the owl world, I think. Congrats on all of your visitors, too! Goes to show–if you create a great blog, they will come. 😉

    7 December 2007 at 11:34 pm

  9. I applaud the great work done by you and your assistants.

    8 December 2007 at 12:27 am

  10. How can anyone resist those big yellow eyes? There’s something very special about being up close to those birds.

    8 December 2007 at 2:58 am

  11. What a great year you had Tom! With eight more boxes I hope that brings more to your nets next year! Yay! Please let us know when you find out about the reason for the overgrown upper mandible!

    8 December 2007 at 8:18 am

  12. Marg

    Congratulations on such a great season Tom and J!
    and everyone else who helped too

    8 December 2007 at 8:43 am

  13. What a great season you had Tom. We have so enjoyed hearing the details and seeing the wonderful photos of the owls. That last photo of the lone Barred Owl is wonderful!

    8 December 2007 at 8:58 am

  14. Thank you for taking the time to share with us the Owls. They are so sweet. No station near me. Someday I would love to see a Saw-whet. As it is I just marvel at yours and Young Naturalist J’s.

    8 December 2007 at 9:03 am

  15. @ Lisa – it has been an unbelievable year for sure! We did find in our birds a few weaker birds but a large majority was very healthy! Thanks
    @ Chicago – Thanks and you could have someone but isn’t participating in Project Owlnet!
    @ Naturegirl – thanks
    @ NaturePalette – Thanks and they are cute for sure! Sorry but will try to check it out for you!
    @ Barb – Hey Stranger!! We miss seeing you around! Thanks!
    @ Lana – thanks and the end product with banding is sharing what you find with everyone!
    @ Marvin – thanks
    @ Wren – they are even cutter in person! Thanks and up close is how I enjoy it!
    @ NatureWowman – it was great for sure! Actually the Eagle Scouts are placing 15 more boxes!
    @ Marg – thanks and wish things would have worked out!
    @ Jayne – thanks and you are too kind! It was an interesting bird for sure!
    @ Sherry – that’s what it is all about and you don’t need to go to a station to find a saw-whet!! Just check your pine groves in your back yard, local park, etc..

    8 December 2007 at 9:20 am

  16. Your reports make me wish I got into bird banding/ringing!
    Really, very neat!!

    8 December 2007 at 9:23 am

  17. Beautiful photos of these beautiful birds! Interesting post on the project owlnet, too.

    8 December 2007 at 10:45 am

  18. maryt

    monarch, I’m overwhelmed at the work you do and the quality of the photos…gee!

    This is maryt who is looking after Deb’s blog. I’ve put up a couple of pix she sent, come visit!

    8 December 2007 at 12:51 pm

  19. Grace

    I love the photo of YNJ and the owl (actually love all the pix). Congratulations on such a great year.

    8 December 2007 at 2:36 pm

  20. What an amazing photo! Thanks for posting it.

    8 December 2007 at 4:10 pm

  21. Hi Mon@rch,
    Thanks for the results on your Saw Whet owl banding project. Will you keep us posted on the nestbox occupancy too?

    P.S. You and your young naturalists do that elf dance pretty good!

    8 December 2007 at 8:19 pm

  22. @ Jochen – thanks and what’s stopping you?
    @ Con Daily – thanks and appreciate your kind words!
    @ Maryt – thanks and glad you visited! Already have checked!
    @ Grace – thanks and that is a great one!
    @ heart4art – thanks for your kind words!
    @ RuthieJ – I will and don’t you love that?? I am still laughing!

    8 December 2007 at 9:19 pm

  23. Oh my, these guys are beautiful! GREAT JOB!

    9 December 2007 at 7:17 am

  24. You guys did a great job and extra thanks for sharing it with us.

    9 December 2007 at 7:23 pm

  25. Bravo, Tom! I just can’t get over those eyes…

    9 December 2007 at 9:14 pm

  26. @ Kerri – thanks for your kind words!
    @ Erie – thanks and was fun season for sure!
    @ Mary – very cute for sure . . thanks!

    9 December 2007 at 11:06 pm


    Did any of the boxes get used last season? I especially like the blood smears on the barred owl, saw-whet blood no doubt?

    9 December 2007 at 11:08 pm

  28. They have had 2 seasons without any saw-whets using them!

    9 December 2007 at 11:19 pm


    Maybe 3 will be the charm!

    10 December 2007 at 5:32 am

  30. On the Alabama birds list, it was just reported that a Saw-whet was banded near Birmingham. SOUTH of us! I wish one would pay us a visit. 🙂

    10 December 2007 at 9:42 am

  31. @ Pwrbrdr, I hope so!
    @ Rurality – Get out looking in the pines for them!

    10 December 2007 at 4:29 pm

  32. Great results – I love seeing these. In fact, I’m going to send this page to a friend of mine who is a naturalist in Delaware.

    But now that you are done counting all of those saw-whets, mind sending some to NJ so I can see them (it would be a lifebird for me).

    12 December 2007 at 5:43 pm

  33. Candace Seaton

    Sadly this morning I discovered one of the beautiful little owls dead on the ground. He didn’t look molested by any cats…he was under a weeping willow tree in Huntsville, Al. He was 9″ from tip of tail to head. So sad.

    6 February 2012 at 4:43 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s