The research team is excited to share that this is one of the best nesting seasons for Great Gray Owls in our study area in recent years! All of the difficult early season work of trekking through deep snow to deploy ARUs (Autonomous Recording Units) has paid off, as we are currently monitoring 13 active nests. Some of our artificial nesting platforms are even being used for the first time since they were put up by the team 10 years ago! In addition to artificial platforms, Great Grays will use stick nests built by other raptors, tree snags, and mistletoe.
Great Gray Owl chicks are now fledging (leaving their nests), an important step in their development and road to independence. While the fledglings are not yet strong flyers, they are able to glide short distances and use their extra sharp talons to climb trees. In order to learn more about survival and dispersal of these owls, our team has been going out to nests to band the fledglings. Around the leg of each owl we attach an aluminum USGS band with a unique 9-digit number, as well as a unique color tag, which is easier to see from afar. This way, if the owl is ever seen again, it can be identified down to the individual level. In addition to banding each individual, a number of measurements are taken. For example, the length of the toepad is measured (bottom right photo) which indicates the sex of the owl.
Great Gray Owls are an elusive and sensitive species, so studying their nesting success, movements, and morphometrics (body measurements) helps us to better understand their ecology and the threats they face.