With 15 owl species occurring regularly in Washington, the state’s owl diversity is among the highest of any state, yet we have little understanding about their populations, even in the heavily populated western lowlands. At the same time, owls command an unusual degree of interest from the public. Their mystique is amplified by their nocturnal habits, their eerie, often ventriloquial voices, their silent flight enabling stealth predation of their hapless prey, and their extraordinary sensory sensitivity with which they can hear mice under snow and find arthropods on moonless, cloudy nights.
About the OWL Project
PSBO’s Owls in Washington Landscapes (OWL) Project mobilizes birders to document their owl observations throughout the Puget Sound Lowlands. The study focuses on two current owl phenomena. One is the dramatic explosion of Barred Owls (Strix varia) in Washington since the first record in the 1960’s. The other is the apparent decline in Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) populations throughout the lowlands of western Washington; anecdotal evidence by long-time birders in western Washington indicates that the species has become much more difficult to find over the last forty years.
PSBO’s OWL Project hopes to engages citizen scientists in collecting data on owls in their neighborhoods in order to better understand our regional owl populations. We will aggregate data on anecdotal observations, will coordinate a playback/recording study with volunteers, will develop and implement a sampling design to determine occupancy of owls, and will put out and track owl nestboxes for declining species to determine causes of declines.
Although the focus of the study is on Barred Owls and Western Screech-Owls, this project will document all owl species encountered during the study.
You can participate in PSBO’s OWL Project in many different ways. Field volunteers with a penchant for nocturnal activity are critical for documenting both owls and their absence in between Everett and Olympia. Lots of coordination, research and writing skills are also needed. Our fun team already includes a Tufts Vet School graduate student, a GIS specialist, and an enthusiastic sound expert. Owl documentation will rely on using a survey protocol with limited playback and sound-recording as well as anecdotal information from birders throughout the region. For more info about how to get involved, contact email@example.com