Owl Monitoring


Maine Natural History Observatory is collaborating with Project Owlnet in a multi-year effort to monitor Saw-whet and Long-eared owl migration in Downeast Maine.


Owl Monitoring in Maine

The owl monitoring station on Petit Manan Point in Steuben, Maine was started in 2015.  This station is one of many along the Eastern seaboard that tracks owls during fall migration.  The Petit Manan Point station is run by Project Owlnet, an initiative started in 1994 to facilitate communication, cooperation, and innovation among owl-migration researchers in North America and beyond. 

Northern Saw-whet Owls

It is almost exclusively Northern Saw-whet owls that are observed at the Petit Manan Point station with the occasional Long-eared Owl.  Saw-whets appear to be declining globally but more research is needed to understand the extent and causes of these population changes.    

The Data

As expected, 2020 has exceeded our previous record for the most owls recorded, and we aren't done yet!  This big owl year is a result of a population boom in small mammal prey availability during the 2020 breeding season that was the result of a huge crop of fir and spruce cones across eastern boreal forests during 2019.  When these large cone crops occur, the abundance of mice, primarily deer mice and red-back voles increases and fuels the production of large broods of young by breeding saw-whet owls.  These large flight years occur every four to five years.  


Red Pins: Owls banded elsewhere that were observed at the Petit Manan Point station.


Green Pins: Owls banded at the station that were observed elsewhere before 31 December.

Yellow Pins: Owls banded at the station that were observed elsewhere often more than a year later.



Due to COVID-19, we aren't able to accept the help of volunteers in 2020.  If you would like to support this project with a financial contribution, please contact glen@mainenaturalhistory.org.  Your donations go toward equipment maintenance and coffee for all those chilly owl technicians that have to stay out all night running the station.  Thank you!

In future years we hope to be able to accept the aid of volunteers who are willing to travel and stay up late.  We supply the owls - you supply the enthusiasm!