Indiana has several owl banding stations running in the the state to research the Northern Saw-whet Owl. In October – November, the stations follow the Project Owlnet protocol and offer events throughout the season for participants to learn about the research.
Northern Saw-whet Owls are common and widespread, but their secretive lifestyle makes population trends difficult to identify with standardized surveys such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey or the Christmas Bird Count. Several states have them listed them as a species of special concern, and a subspecies native to the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia is threatened. Although saw-whets breed in many forest types, they favor mature stands which may come under pressure for logging or development. Saw-whets take readily to nest boxes in their breeding range north of Indiana, which can also be used to mitigate the loss of natural sites. Large-scale habitat shifts caused by climate change may affect the southern range limit of this species in the future.
Primary research in Indiana is done in the fall, however more and more stations are beginning to research the lesser known spring migration. Spring migration of saw-whet owls can fluctuate with weather patterns, but is generally mid February-March across the state. Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary is currently working with a MOTUS tower project, funded by the Efromyson Family Fund, to radio tag migrating Saw-whet Owls.
The following article appeared in the November 2016 Indiana Audubon Quarterly regarding timing of migration of Saw-whet Owls in NW Indiana. The entire issue is available here to read for free.
Night of the Owls Banding Demonstration Night
Check back for 2022 program status. IAS hosts and organizes special nights with the owls around the state each fall. On this night, participants may choose from one of FIVE owl banding stations running in Indiana to learn about the amazing migration of our smallest owl, as well as watch in the banding process of these spectacular birds. Participants may choose from the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary station, Indiana Dunes station, the Purdue Martell Forest station, or the Ball State Whitetail Tree Farm station. All participants should dress for the weather, as you may be outside at certain times, depending on the station.
2022 Indiana Dunes Banding Night Options:
The 2022 fall Indiana Dunes owl banding demonstrations and behind the scenes programs will continue at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center this fall. To learn more or to register, check our Events Page.
Project Owlnet: Behind the Scenes
It’s a special night behind the scenes at the Indiana Dunes owl banding station! Join us for a special behind the scenes look at the owl banding at the Indiana Audubon’s Dunes Project Owlnet Station. Registered participants will get to meet before the nets are put up to learn about the program and assist with net set up. Participants will perform hourly net checks with staff and volunteers and get a chance to see owls up close before they are banded. Head lamps and other supplies provided. Participants may wish to bring their own dinner and snacks, as nearby restaurants are several miles away. Due to the nature of the program, owls can never be guaranteed on any particular night.
This special behind the scenes night is separate from the general banding demonstrations and includes a special donation that helps with owl banding operations.
2022 dates TBA.
Volunteers are the backbone of our owl research. Volunteers often assist for long hours, after dark (often after 11pm). Volunteers must have open availability between October 10-November 20 each year, and be available a minimum 2-3 nights per week. If you’re interested in information about volunteering for the Project Owlnet Banding Program contact us Here.