Saw Whet Owl Banding @ Valley Falls

Joey Herron with owl


The only thing cuter than Owl is…


animated owl

Owl from Winnie the Pooh


. . .  perhaps, THIS owl!


tiny owl in tree

Northern Saw Whet Owl


A really small owl— the smallest in North America, as a matter of fact!  And I don’t just mean smaller than average; I mean pop can small. That’s right, lighter than 12 oz. A pop can with eyes… and wings… and bracelets?


Not quite bracelets, but bands. Valley Falls State Park hosts the Northern Saw-Whet Owl bandings on October 28 & 29 and November 4 & 5.


owl in bush

Northern Saw Whet Owl


You can play detective and see if you can track one down. Pay attention to the clues; first listen. Do you hear a repeated, monotonous whistle, especially at night? Is the sound getting closer? Now look down, especially at the base of coniferous trees. Saw-whet owls leave lots of evidence beneath their favorite perching trees.


Joey Herron with Saw Whet Owl

Joey Herron with Saw Whet Owl


Not sure of your detective skills? Then join Joey Herron who has caught over 300 owls in his 11 years of observing and banding.

What’s the purpose of banding these tiny creatures?

The NSWO is a dark and rusty brown owl, with the babies being a chocolate brown with a telltale white “V” on their faces. Their migration begins in October, peaking around Halloween and ending in December.  


Saw Whet Owl banding station

Saw Whet Owl banding station at Valley Falls State Park


Herron will use mist netting and an audio lure of a saw-whet owl to capture and band them.  Once captured, the bird’s age and sex are determined, wing measurements recorded, and then he or she is released!

Some of you may be thinking, “Well this sounds perfectly cruel — abducting birds, forcing them to wear a band. It’s not natural.”


Saw Whet Owl banding

Saw Whet Owl banding


Bird banding is a non-invasive, long-term method of observing and studying birds without interfering with their natural behavior.” It is helpful to both the birds and the people to catch, band, release, and even recapture banded birds.


NSWO Banding with Joey Herron

NSWO Banding with Joey Herron


Through bird banding we can begin to understand species composition and abundance, which species are found in the area and when, which species use what locations as stopover sites and how long they stay, how much weight they gain, potential disease epidemics (like West Nile Virus), and clues to ecological issues by tracking bill deformities.



NSWO banding at Valley Falls State Park


And the best place to do this? Valley Falls State Park, that’s where! You see, even the Saw-Whet Owls appreciate the park’s beauty! Actually, Joey realized that Valley Falls State Park is in the little NSWO’s migratory flight route. Banding the owls here provides easy monitoring and banding. Its high elevation and forest cover draw these little guys in!

So if you’re looking for a new fall experience in Marion County,  join Joey Herron and learn from the best how to safely and correctly band those tiny little owls!


Suggested provisions for the outing include: flashlight, a thermos of something hot, folding chair, and a camera. Be sure to dress for the fall evening weather!



Banding a NSWO


If you have specific question, contact Joey at  or 304-203-525. Because of limited space at the banding site, it’s a good idea to let Joey know you would like to join him.


Have you observed a Northern Saw Whet Owl? There is nothing like the thrill of seeing this tiny creature up close!


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