Capture and banding techniques

Note:  the following techniques are to be used only by those in possession of a valid banding permit with authorization for Short-eared Owls.

Researchers have reported success (and failure) with a variety of capture techniques.  We present here a brief summary of comments we have received, and welcome any further commentary or suggestions from those who have experience with this species.

Bownets, especially those with an automated release trigger, have proven to be quite effective at capturing Short-eared Owls.

Bal-chatri traps, though useful for many raptors, seem to rarely be successful with Short-eared Owls.  Experience suggests that while the owls are attracted to the traps, they tend to be too wary to actually land on them. Somewhat counter-intuitively, it appears that Short-eared Owls respond more strongly to sparrows than mice.

Mist nets may be effective in some circumstances, most notably during the nesting season when adults are likely to be aggressively defensive.  The nets are most likely to be successful if an audiolure is used, and/or a predator decoy is placed conspicuously beside the net.  Some have also found nets to work in the absence of such lures, if the net is placed in tall grasses, and a narrow lane is mowed on either side of it; the opening provides easier access for the owls to their prey, and they may hit the net in the course of hunting.  Leasure and Holt (1991) report on the successful use of a horizontally held mist net, that can be lowered over nests to catch the female and/or young.

Verbail traps are difficult to find, and can be tricky to learn to use, but are among the best tools for catching Short-eared Owls, especially in areas where natural perches are scarce.  Click here for a few photos of a verbail trap, and a brief poor-quality video that gives some sense of how the trap is triggered.

Have you had success capturing Short-eared Owls with these or other methods?  E-mail us with your input.


2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.