Northern Saw-whet Owls: Banding & Research

Northern Saw-whet Owl on branch in early fall
Northern Saw-whet Owl

Species Overview

At just 7-8 inches long, the Northern Saw-whet is the smallest owl in the eastern US. Although they're not often seen (or heard) in the wild, an active banding program has banded a good population in Massachusetts.

What They Sound Like


While their elusive nature makes it difficult to collect precise data on this species, census counts have indicated that saw-whet populations have strongly increased in Massachusetts since the late 1970s. 

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Conservation Research

Several Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries collaborate with Project Owlnet—a network of Saw-whet Owl banding stations throughout the United States and Canada—to advance our scientific understanding of these elusive owls.

Volunteer crews at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Moose Hill in Sharon, and Daniel Webster in Marshfield run "mist-netting" operations to band Northern Saw-whet Owls and monitor their migration each fall. Mist nets are a special tool used by researchers to safely capture birds to study and band them before returning them to the wild.