University of Arkansas researchers and volunteers have wrapped up their latest field season focused on northern saw-whet owls at the Ozark Natural Science Center in Madison County. They captured and banded more than 35 of the small owls. In 2014, when they began their project, they were the first to capture and band a northern saw-whet owl in Arkansas.
This is the first year the group, led by Mitchell Pruitt, a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences, equipped some of the owls with radio transmitters. He works with his adviser, Kimberly Smith, Distinguished Professor of biological sciences.
“We hope to acquire information about what the species is doing during its time in Arkansas, specifically around our field site,” said Pruitt, who has been involved with the project since its inception. “We have reason to believe some individuals may be spending the winter in our area. I’m extremely fortunate to have been able to spend so much time working with this species over the last few years.
“The research is invigorating and an inspiring way to be involved in ornithology and bird conservation,” Pruitt said. “Plus, the saw-whet owl is clearly the cutest owl in the world.”
Pruitt provides updates on the northern saw-whet owl project on a Facebook group page. In 2011, Pruitt – at age 17 – documented sightings of 311 avian species, ranking 4th in Arkansas for most bird species seen in the year. The ranking was part of the “Big Year,” a competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species or birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area.