University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Saw-whet Owl, Great Lakes region, fall migrant


The secretive Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is believed to be much more widespread during fall and winter than previously thought. Of the few places in the southern United States conducting research on this species, all have been successful at capturing birds. A total of 12 historic records existed for Arkansas until our work began in fall of 2014. The first confirmed record was in 1959 and the most recent, prior to this research, was in 2010. Over the course of two field seasons, we captured and banded 24 Northern Saw-whet Owls in rural Madison County. All birds were mist-netted along a trail, in woodland composed of pine and cedar with fairly dense undergrowth. Two were captured during our 2014 season after a late start and 22 were captured in 2015, likely the result of an earlier start. Comparing our data to that of several other banding operations in the south, it would appear that the peak of migration in Arkansas is late October through early November, with capture rates dropping by early December. Of the birds captured, all but one was female, the most common sex this far south. A variety of age classes were identified, with a fairly even distribution of hatch-year, second-year, and after-second-year birds. Exactly from where the saw-whets are migrating is unknown, although several foreign recoveries in Missouri and four recoveries in Arkansas suggest they are coming from the western Great Lakes region. Once considered a vagrant, based on this research, the saw-whet appears to be a fall migrant to the state of Arkansas.