Monday, October 22, 2007

Birds are Individuals

One of the neatest things I learned from banding is that each bird is an individual, and given a certain situation each bird will respond differently. For instance, some Swainson's Hawks will try to take the skin off your head before you get anywhere their nest, where as others will leave the area as soon as they notice you and you won't see them again!

Having handled over 200 Northern Saw-whet Owls now, you can definetly see that each bird is an individual just in their look. Take a look for yourself.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Banding Northern Saw-whet Owls

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is the smallest owl we have here in Saskatchewan, and arguably the cutest. This owl breeds in the parkland and boreal forests of the province, and during the fall migrates south. They move south in fairly large numbers, but ask any birder, and they likely have only seen a Saw-whet once or twice in their life, if that. This is because these birds are strictly nocturnal and don't become active until the sun has set.

But ask any Saskatchewan owl bander and Saw-whets are one of the most common owls in Saskatchewan based on numbers banded each year. Until a few years ago, Saw-whets have received virtually no attention here in Saskatchewan. That was until a couple of sharp SK banders decided to bring Saw-whet banding to the province.

This fall there are five different stations in Saskatchewan: 1 east of Saskatoon, 1 at Matador, 1 at the north end of Last Mountain Lake, 1 near Prince Albert, and my station at Edenwold (35 min NE of Regina). This fairly geographically spaced group allows the opportunity to study movements of Saw-whets as they migrate, and that is just what we are doing.

In general, Saw-whet migration runs from the third week of September to the end of October. During this time the peak appears to be around the second week of October. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the migration, last year, the five station in Sask caught and banded over 500 Saw-whets during this period.

Once the birds are in the hand we record a bunch of data.

We record wing chord.

Culmen length.

Tail length.

And mass.

We also record age and sex of each owl, and of course the birds are banded.

More about Saw-whets later.