Sunday, October 6, 2013


Juvenile/hatch year saw-whet. Note dark brown plumage
and buff belly, with few bars and spots.
Photos by Steve King.
Hello young saw-whet! Last night during the kick-off to our 9th season of owl monitoring, we had a nice surprise in our nets; a first year female with about 2/3 of her body covered in juvenal plumage. These are the wispy more unstructured feathers found everywhere but on the tail and wings (flight feathers). The flight feathers were typical of a first year bird (hatch year, HY), all uniform in pattern and age because they grow in at the same time.

Note wispy feathers typical of juvenal plumage
and darker, more uniform coloration.
In comparison and below, this bird has molted into adult type plumage,and right is a webphoto of a newly fledged saw-whet. Our first capture above had a combination of both plumages. Go to this link for a really cute video of nestlings.

Plumage of a typical "adult-type" saw-whet,
lighter with more patterning: spots and bars

Why is this so exciting?  A banding resource (Pyle 1997) describes juvenal plumage from May through September, meaning that most birds in October would have their first basic (adult-type) plumage.  I know that to be true because it is only the second bird in this plumage that I have captured of over 600 owls. And I think it could indicate that we have local and late breeding-perhaps even a second clutch for a local nesting pair. How local? That's hard to say. In our few summer surveys, we have not detected breeders at the BCCER. But attempts have been few and these owls are variable in their nesting locations. Always more questions! Anyway here's the team- we are off to a good start with two owls this first banding night.Thanks team!

The 2013 NSWO banding team with our first owl of the year, from front left to right:
Sheila, Julie, Shannon, me, JoAnna, Nancy, Raina and Tyler.
And of course Steve is behind the camera- thanks Steve!


  1. Woohoo! or - i mean, Hoo Hoo! I'm going to come volunteer for you one of these days so I can touch a saw whet!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond