Work will help scientists determine where the rare birds spend winter
Wildlife biologists at the University of Arkansas have captured and documented the first northern saw-whet owl in Arkansas.
Between 1959 and 2010, only a dozen sightings of this rare bird – much smaller than screech, barred or great horned owls – had been recorded in the state prior to the adult female recently captured by Kimberly Smith, University Professor of biological sciences, and Mitchell Pruitt, an Honors College undergraduate student majoring in crop, soil, and environmental sciences.
Using mist-nets, a technique that includes a fine-gauge, black nylon net to ensnare birds, the researchers captured and banded the owl at the Ozark Natural Science Center near Huntsville in late November. Alyssa DeRubeis, a naturalist and teacher at the center, assisted Smith and Pruitt, who had previously tried the method at other locations in Northwest Arkansas, including Devil’s Den State Park.
The northern saw-whet, whose habitat is typically the northern United States and along various ranges of the Appalachian Mountains, is a small, secretive species that prefers low, brushy areas, especially cedar forests. They eat mice and spend their days silently perched at eye level in trees. Their main predators are other species of owls – barred and great horned owls.
During winter, northern saw-whets are usually silent and difficult to locate, so little is known about their winter distribution. However, recent successes at banding stations in Missouri and Alabama caused Smith and Pruitt to suspect the birds might also occur in Arkansas.
“An interesting thing about saw-whets is some of them migrate south every year, even when there’s plenty of food up north,” said Pruitt, who will use the experience and research for his honors thesis. “This year food must have been abundant because capture rates have been down across the country. But some birds have trickled through.”
The researchers attracted the bird by playing a recording of the northern saw-whet’s call. Once captured, they examined the bird and took measurements, showing a large female adult in its second year of life; it weighed 86 grams (3 ounces) and had a closed wing-chord of 142 millimeters (5.6 inches). Males and females are distinguished by a combination of weight and wing length.
Mature northern saw-whets can be distinguished from juveniles by flashing a black light on the underside of the wing. Like several other owl species, saw-whets have fluorescent pigments called porphyrins under their wings, and the patterns differ between juvenile and adult birds, Smith said.
The researchers banded the bird to track its migratory pattern, which will help biologists determine where the birds are wintering. After banding and photographing the bird, the researchers released it. The owl then perched for 10 minutes on a nearby branch, and the researchers took one more photograph before it flew away.
Two weeks after the initial capture, Smith and Pruitt captured another adult female at the Ozark Natural Science Center.
“The fact that we were able to capture two birds in the same place within two weeks of each other is really incredible, given that this owl has only been seen in Arkansas about a dozen times in the last 55 years,” Smith said. “Even more unbelievable is that we have had three owls respond to our tape recording at the Science Center, suggesting that this owl might be much more common in Arkansas than previously thought.”
The researchers will continue their late-night study through spring this year and will repeat netting next fall and winter.
Unless one is a master bird bander, trapping or possessing migratory birds is illegal in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Smith is a master bird bander, licensed by the federal government. He also has an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission permit, an Arkansas Natural Heritage permit and permits from both the National Park Service and Arkansas State Parks. Pruitt is training to become a sub-permit holder.
Kimberly Smith, University Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences
Mitchell Pruitt, undergraduate student
Matt McGowan, science and research communications officer
Kimberly Smith | newswise
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.
The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
23.03.2018 | Event News
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy