Exciting News from the North! Satellite Telemetry

Back in early August, our colleague JF Therrien from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and the Owl Research Institute’s lead scientist Denver Holt deployed satellite transmitters on three snowy owl chicks on their natal grounds in Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska.

One of the main aims of this tracking project is to assess dispersal movements of young snowy owls. Another very important aspect is to assess their survival rate, from the moment they are born through their first year and beyond. Survival rate is a crucial metric in any population, but often overlooked by researchers, especially for younger age classes. Measuring survival however also means studying when birds expire, and -- especially with species like snowy owls that inhabit remote locations -- that is never easy to document. With that in mind, our network of collaborators has engaged in this break-through project, hoping to shed light on these critical aspects of snowy owl conservation biology.

The three young snowy owls have been transmitting their locations ever since they were banded in early August. After showing some very limited movements around their respective nest sites, two of the birds have now traveled more than 62 and 137 miles (100 and 220 km) respectively. All three birds are still in Alaska, and the map above shows where they were last located. This project has already allowed us to determine an approximate departure date when the young snowies leave their natal grounds. The coming months are going to be exciting, and we're eager to see where these young owls head and potentially settle for the winter. We will, of course, keep an eye out to see if the transmitters become stationary (a sign that mortality might have occurred), but we're hoping for the best for them.

Stay tuned for an exciting winter season!

Text and photo courtesy of JF Therrien

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