Arkansas Saw-whet Owl Project


  • Remote Detection of Saw-whet Owls: $100. Last winter, we deployed autonomous recording units (ARUs) to explore other places that saw-whet owls might occur in the Ozarks. After a winter spent bumping down gravel roads and 6 months of listening to sound files, this was a resounding success. Of 56 sites surveyed, saw-whet owls were present at 27 of them! Formerly, we had evidence of saw-whet owls at 2 sites in the Ozarks. This initial study complete, we're interested in moving further afield to pine forest of the Ouachita Mountains, southern, and eastern Arkansas. We will be deploying a fleet of ARUs from December 2021-February 2022 to expand our ability to detect saw-whet owls at a variety of new sites across Arkansas. The units will be placed in the winter forest to quietly listen for us. These units will each require a set of batteries to power them through the field season.
  • Migration Monitoring Costs: $50. As part of our standard migration monitoring, we will be using two different net arrays to dig deeper into a long-standing question: why do we mostly capture female owls? A necessary evil is the abundance of AA batteries needed to power audio lures to capture saw-whet owls. Batteries are changed every few nights and recycled. Reusable batteries have been used in the past, but are similarly costly.
  • Genetic Sexing and Parasitic Infection: $700. A new collaboration with other researchers at the University of Arkansas has led us to collect blood samples from our saw-whet owls. Using a minimally-invasive technique, we will collect blood for genetic sexing. Like objective 2, we hope this will get at one of our long-standing questions. Given the error involved with field sexing owls, there has long been a need for more widely used genetic sexing techniques. We will also be using blood samples to examine the health of our owls. Like most birds, saw-whet owls carry ectoparasites called flat flies. These interesting flies may come with health consequences. Using blood samples, we will conduct a variety of analyses to examine owl health (white blood cell counts, hematocrit, endoparasite counts). While we are able to analyze samples at the U of A, significant costs are associated with molecular sexing kits, stains, and other supplies required for accurate results.
  • Travel: $880. We plan to make 25 trips to our field site for fall migration banding. This lovely spot is 42 miles from home and significant travel costs are incurred during the field season. Additionally we plan to make 5 trips to each of 5 new field sites where acoustic recording units will be deployed to actively listen for saw-whet owls. Though fun and novel research, travel costs will add up quickly.

We are grateful for the selfless contributions that will aide in continuing this research and ultimately the conservation of this poorly understood species. Any little bit helps! Only recently have we come to understand that saw-whet owls regularly occur in open pine forest, far south of their previously-known range in fall and winter. Given the abundance of this habitat type throughout Arkansas and the southern United States, significant wintering populations of this tiny owl are likely right under our noses!