Phase 2:  Satellite telemetry

To learn about the patterns of movement exhibited by Short-eared Owls, in an effort to develop a foundation for conservation efforts that takes into account their key breeding and wintering areas, as well as migratory concentration points.  The Short-eared Owl is generally regarded as a nomadic species, yet in many provinces and states there are important wintering areas used annually.  However, the links between wintering and breeding populations are generally unknown, despite being of great potential significance to identifying and managing conservation concerns. 

This phase of the project will use satellite telemetry as a means of documenting the movement of Short-eared Owls.  This will allow us to remotely track the movements of individuals regardless of their location, providing an accurate overview of the areas they use in summer, winter, and on migration. 

In 2006, MRF experimentally tested a backpack harness on captive Short-eared Owls at the Owl Foundation to develop a design which is safe and unintrusive, and to which the birds show no behavioural adjustments.  Through satellite telemetry, we have the potential to follow the movements of Short-eared Owls for a period of up to 2-3 years (the upper limit being restricted by the longevity of the satellite transmitter, but in reality as the Short-eared Owl is a short-lived species, it is statistically probable that most individuals studied will die before the power fails).

As of 2007, satellite telemetry has only been used to study the movements of two other Short-eared Owls, with limited results to date.  Therefore we expect that each individual will yield new and interesting insights into the species' behaviour.  We plan to initially track a small number of individuals from different areas, to get an overview of the range of movements exhibited.  We hope to follow up on this preliminary research with a more focused study of multiple individuals in one or more of the populations from the original sample.  The principal regions we are considering starting the research in are southern Manitoba, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and New York, but we are open to suggestions of other areas to consider, especially if there is the potential for local funding support for the project.  Results from our first satellite-tracked owl can be found here.

Partners and supporters:
MRF is working to find partners for this phase of the Short-eared Owl project, and will add to the list below as they are secured:

  • the Owl Foundation in Vineland, Ontario (assistance with testing transmitter harnesses on captive birds)

Click here for information about Phase Three of the Short-eared Owl research program

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.