Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Banding Burrowing Owls

Most people are pretty familiar with at least a few types of owls. Big, nocturnal birds, nesting high in trees or maybe barns. But did you know not all owls nest above ground, nor are all owls nocturnal?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help band several burrowing owls. As the name suggests, these owls nest in underground burrows. They are also one of the few owls that can often be seen during the day.

And they aren't very big. One birder compared them to the size of a pop can, which is pretty accurate.

Most of the owls we were able to capture and band were juveniles, just hatched this year, but the adults aren't really much bigger.

Burrowing owls don't dig their own burrows. They use existing burrows, either naturally formed, or excavated previously by another ground dwelling animal, such as a badger. They will also readily use man-made structures, such as underground nest boxes.

To trap the young, we placed a "live trap" in the entrance of the burrow with entrance flaps that only open inward. So as the owls emerge from the burrow, they walk right into the cage but can't get back out.

Once trapped, we carefully remove them one at a time.

Each owl is carefully given a leg band, and then weighed.

Receiving a leg band

Recording banding information



The purpose for banding the owls is to monitor their migration, lifespan, nesting success rate, etc.

They also make good candidates for photographing.


Sybil said...

Waaaaaaaaaaay cuter than a pop can.

Oak in the Seed said...

How long does this process take? Have you ever had stress related issues when the birds are captured, weighed, etc?

Wendy said...

Oak, great question. It only takes a couple of minutes max. And back in the burrow they go. I haven't heard of any stress related issues.