The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is a nocturnal owl species with a large breeding range within the boreal forest including the forest that surrounds Lesser Slave Lake. Northern Saw-whets are confirmed breeders in the Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, but their breeding density is unknown.

Since 2004, the LSLBO has contributed to Project Owlnet, an international network of Northern Saw-whet Owl banding stations. Targeted owl banding is performed during favourable weather conditions from September 1 to October 31 to monitor
migratory Northern Saw-whet Owls and potentially migratory Boreal Owls. The method used to capture the owls is simple and produces good results. The LSLBO operates two net arrays.  The Saw-whet Owl array consists of a line of four nets near the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation in mature deciduous forest  and another two nets in a nearby stand of conifers makes up the Boreal Owl net array (established 2016). Nets are opened one hour after sunset with standardized call playbacks specific to each species used to attract owls.

This nightly banding in conjunction with observations is used to determine long term population trends of Northern Saw-whet Owls and Boreal Owls along the northeastern shoreline of Lesser Slave Lake. Data gathered through banding will also provide further insight into population demographics and biometrics of the owl as well as migratory habitat quality and population trends for small mammal can also be inferred from our data. Please see the Research Library section for a peer reviewed article on Northern Saw-whet owl migration in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Education is a secondary focus of this project. Owls are an incredible medium to teach the public aspects of bird biology, conservation and the role of bird banding. Please see the education section for more information on our fall owl banding education programs.