Some visitors to Indiana Dunes State Park will be burning the midnight oil in mid October when they come to observe the popular Saw-whet Owl banding project, now in its seventh year.
The banding project monitors long-term changes in Saw-whet owl populations as found along Lake Michigan’s southern shore, by counting owls and studying the birds’ stopover patterns and duration.
The Indiana event is part of the larger Project Owlnet network of small banding stations. It was created in 1990 to standardize the way information on the petite owl is gathered.
Indiana is not the only place where Saw-whet banding takes place. Banding centers are located from Washington and California, to many locations in the upper Midwest and many more along eastern coastal states.
Charming in appearance, but fierce hunters, Saw-whet owls are small, between 7 and 8 inches in body length, with cat-like, oversized heads and bright yellow eyes. Their diet consists of small deer mice, other birds and insects.
They are nocturnal and very difficult to see during their night-time migrations, but specialized and repetitious Saw-whet too-too-too calls and nets lure them to the banding centers at the Indiana Dunes State Park.
Saw-whets are one of the most common owls found in North America, migrating south each fall in large numbers from the far northern areas of Canada to Midwestern and East Coast states. It is also not unusual to find Saw-whet owls as far as Alabama, Louisiana and northern Florida.
Indiana’s banding program runs from October through November 20, for 4 to 8 hours each night, beginning a half hour after sunset. Safety of the birds is never compromised; weather conditions sometimes close an evening’s work.
For a look at the project, click here.
For more information about Saw-whet owls, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
— From the Indiana Department of Natural Resources
— Photo Courtesy the USFWS