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Effectiveness of artificial nest structures for detecting and monitoring Northern Saw-whet Owls at Vassar Farm

Contact: Dr. Glenn A. Proudfoot

Owls researchThe Northern saw-whet owl is considered a bioindicator in New York state. As bioindicators the Northern saw-whet owl may provide an early warning of pollution or degradation in an ecosystem, which can help direct recovery efforts and sustain critical resources. However, to the best of my knowledge, no information is published on the nesting ecology of this species in the Lower Hudson Valley or the Shawangunk Mountain area. This study will ascertain the distribution of Northern saw-whet owls on Vassar Farm and, thus, expand the information portfolio of agents charged with future management decisions. A group of students and I established 36 nest boxes in forested areas of Vassar Farm and monitored them bi-monthly with a miniature video camera to collect information on the population distribution, nesting ecology, and nesting behavior of the Northern saw-whet owl. We record information on clutch size, hatching efficiency, nestling development, and fledging efficiency. In addition, all other species using the nest boxes are recorded and the potential for competition with Northern saw-whet owls is being assessed. To obtain information on site and pair fidelity and life expectancy, mist-nets, bow-nets, and broadcasted conspecific calls are used to capture adults for identification, band them for future identification, weigh them to examine development, and sex them using molecular methods. We hope that the information will be used to direct future research and to assess the development potential of an educational outreach program on Vassar Farm.