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Whooooo’s Out There?


Help collect information about NL’s owl populations between April 1 and May 15, 2021.
Northern Saw-whet Owl sticking head out of cavity in tree

Northern Saw-whet Owl Photo: Brendan Kelly

For immediate release. St. John’s, NL, 24 March 2021

If you’ve ever encountered an owl in the wild, you know that little compares with the experience of watching one of these mysterious predators soar across a moonlit sky on silent wings.

The Nocturnal Owl Survey is a citizen science survey carried out by Birds Canada volunteers across the country each spring. These volunteers survey pre-determined routes for owls one evening between April 1st and May 15th.

“Every year, I look forward to the Owl Survey as a sign of spring and the start of breeding bird season,” says Beverly McClenaghan, an owl survey volunteer. “It’s always an adventure getting bundled up and heading out on a cool spring night in hopes of hearing the familiar hooting of an owl…[and] I love knowing that my efforts are contributing valuable information to the study of these creatures!”

Owls are excellent indicator of environmental health, as they are high on the food chain and thus vulnerable to many environmental disturbances. But monitoring owl populations is no easy task! Most owl species are secretive, primarily nocturnal, and roost in concealed locations during the day. Specialized surveys like the Nocturnal Owl Survey allow us to detect these species and learn about their populations.

The Nocturnal Owl Survey was first launched in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018 and is currently in the process of expanding. Birds Canada is looking for new volunteers to participate in the survey either by adopting existing owl routes or establishing new routes in areas with no coverage, particularly outside the Avalon Peninsula.

We welcome both beginning and experienced birders interested in participating in the Nocturnal Owl Survey. The survey is particularly suited to new birders because there are only a few owl calls to learn and relatively little time is required.

“The experience of interacting with birds as they recognize and respond to our call playback is incredible, and we often spot foxes and other animals as well,” says Laura King, President of Nature NL. “I’d recommend this nocturnal nature adventure to anyone who likes science, birds, staying up late, or hot chocolate.”

To learn more about the survey, visit the NL Nocturnal Owl Survey website or e-mail Catherine Dale at cdale AT To sign up for a route, register on the Atlantic Canada Nocturnal Owl Survey homepage.

The Nocturnal Owl Survey is a program of Birds Canada. The Newfoundland and Labrador survey is supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

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Northern Saw-whet Owl with eyes shut

Northern Saw-whet Owl Photo: Brendan Kelly

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl Photo: Alvan Buckley

Great Horned Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl Photo: Brendan Kelly

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