Riding Mountain Natural Area, MB (Photo by NCC)

Riding Mountain Natural Area, MB (Photo by NCC)

Nocturnal owl surveys are a hoot

Great horned owl (Photo by Bill Hubick)

Great horned owl (Photo by Bill Hubick)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Manitoba Region recently hosted its annual Nocturnal Owl Survey near the town of Makinak.

A total of three NCC staff and six volunteers attended, including two returning volunteers. The evening was a great success for owling! Between the three routes that were surveyed, a number of owls were heard, including great horned, northern saw-whet and barred owls.

Because owls are nocturnal birds, the survey takes place after sunset and relies heavily on listening for different owl calls. Each owl species has a distinct set of calls, which makes them fairly straightforward to distinguish for all levels of listeners.

NCC works in nine Natural Areas throughout Manitoba to protect key habitats for the species that live in them, as well as working with landowners and communities situated on these landscapes. The results of the survey correlate with local accounts of owl activity in the area, and will be used to inform NCC’s conservation planning and as part of a broader Manitoba Nocturnal Owl Survey program.

Bird Studies Canada oversees the owl surveys on a country-wide basis, and uses the data collected to determine owl species abundance, distribution, population fluctuations and habitat associations.

The Nocturnal Owl Survey was first initiated in Manitoba in 1991 by Jim and Patsy Duncan, in collaboration with Manitoba Conservation. These surveys are a great opportunity to become involved in Citizen Science, which provides volunteers from the general public with a chance to contribute to an overall understanding of conservation and ecology.

The participation of local landowners and community members in these events is extremely valuable for NCC’s ongoing conservation efforts in Manitoba. If you are interested in becoming a conservation volunteer for these or similar events, please visit conservationvolunteers.ca or natureconservancy.ca/mb to learn more!

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