As you may know, no Long-eared Owls nested at the explore.org cam site last year - a live cam that is set up at one of our study sites in western Montana. This year, Denver Holt, president of the Owl Research Institute, had the idea to move the cam to a new, nearby location - a spot we could easily identify as a roosting site based on the amount of whitewash and pellets in the area. Denver has wanted to do a roost cam for a long time and, when he approached explore, they were supportive of the change and sent a crew to move and reconfigure the camera.
As you can see from the photos, the roost cam has been incredible - capturing as many as 13 Long-eared Owls in one frame! Long-eared Owls are unique in their communal roosting behavior and can congregate in groups of 2 to 20 or more - one of only a few species of owls in the world that aggregate during the non-breeding season to form these communal roosts. In Montana, this is usually during autumn and winter. At times, they also nest in close proximity – but do not fit the definition of colonial nesters. With so many owls in a specific area, it is surprising to learn that winter communal groups of these owls rarely comprise members of the same family.
The cam is live and switches to infrared at night - although with this cam, daylight hours are the best time to tune in. The only caveat to this camera is that it runs on solar power - normally a great thing - however, during the short, gray days of winter in western Montana, the cam does not always get powered-up. If you visit the cam and find video of a spring nesting scene, you know the camera is down due to a lack of power. Keep checking back however - seeing these never-before-seen views of a communal roost is a special treat!
We are so grateful to Explore for providing these cams and opening so many doors for research, understanding, and new ways to learn. Visit the cam here: