Owl Surveys


Continue to monitor owls on the Superior NF with three survey types. One is the Western Great Lakes Region Owl Monitoring survey (WGLROM). The partners include the MNDNR, Wisconsin Bird Conservancy, and the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Another is a long-standing (22 year) survey led by cooperator/volunteer Bill Lane. A third uses nest boxes to help focus monitoring and determine use for boreal owls. The main goals of these efforts are to assess the distribution, status, and ecology of owls and in particular the sensitive boreal and great gray owls. This information is important to address habitat management for forest owls in northeast Minnesota.


Two surveys share similar basic protocol. Each is along roads at night between March and May. The longstanding survey involves listening for three minutes at points each half mile along five specific routes that average 25-30 mi. The newer on involves listening for 2-5 minutes at points each mile along 10-15 specific nine mile routes. Surveys are conducted three times on each route. Surveyors passively listen at each stop and any calling owl is recorded. Call-back surveys are used by FS biologists to help detect owls in areas being assessed for vegetation management. Listening points occur near existing nest boxes to check for boreal owl breeding activity, and the boxes are also checked for occupancy.


Information from project surveys is used to help ensure vegetation management maintains owl habitat, especially for the boreal and great gray owls. Lane's work has witnessed a dramatic decline in the boreal owl on the east side of the Superior NF. Currently, there are 15 WGLROM routes within the SNF proclamation boundary, most of which are on the west side of the SNF. Of the 15 routes, 11 routes were surveyed in 2009, with a total of 25 owls comprising 3 species detected (15 N. Saw-whet Owls along 6 routes, 9 Barred Owls along 5 routes, and one Great Gray Owl along 1 route). The five years of WGLROM Survey will become more valuable at detecting trends as survey data accumulates. The great gray owl appears to exist as a breeding species at a constant, low level. The boxes are used very infrequently by boreal owls, though this is likely another sign of their scarcity.


Volunteer , Other


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources , Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative , Bill Lane