National Nocturnal Owl Surveys

Information on distribution, abundance, and population trends of all North American nocturnal owl species is required for developing sound conservation strategies, identifying species in need of particular conservation action, and evaluating the effectiveness of current management programs. Most species of nocturnal owls are poorly monitored by existing multi-species surveys, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Migration Monitoring, and Christmas Bird Counts.

Broadcast surveys are one of the most widely used techniques to locate and survey owls. This survey technique has been used to document the range and status of several owl species in North America, and can also be used to determine habitat associations

Representatives from the main volunteer surveys in Canada met in September 1999 to develop a set of standards for owl monitoring. The outcome of that meeting was agreement on a set of standard components that should be incorporated into roadside surveys for breeding owls. These meetings, with subsequent discussions, have led to development of guidelines for survey protocols that we hope will be adopted by all organizations running nocturnal roadside surveys for owls. The North American-wide initiative was developed to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Obtaining information on distribution of owls.
  2. Estimating relative abundance of owls within regions and across North America.
  3. Estimating trends in populations of nocturnal owls at scales ranging from regional (ie. ecoregion, province, state) to continental.
  4. Determining habitat associations of owls.

Several regions of Canada have established volunteer-based nocturnal roadside surveys for breeding owls. In 2001 in Ontario, 172 surveyors participated in the Ontario Nocturnal Owl Survey (275 routes run). In British Columbia and southern Yukon, 177 owlers listened at 2072 stops and heard 308 owls of eight owl species. Manitoba's Nocturnal Owl survey had 91 participants who surveyed 57 routes and there were 0.27 owls/station surveyed. Alberta's volunteer program has run two pilot years, with 25 volunteers and 30 transects. New Brunswick's Nocturnal Owl Surveys had 170 participants survey 84 routes and on Cape Breton 30 volunteers surveyed 22 routes.

These surveys appear to be an effective means of monitoring many species of owls. These procedures are designed for broad scale monitoring of relative abundance, distribution, habitat use, and changes in these parameters over time. The guidelines will be integrated into the North American Raptor Monitoring Strategy being developed through the United States Geological Service, Raptor Research Foundation, Snake River Field Station, and Boise State University, Raptor Research Center.

There are coordinators for volunteer surveys in several regions. Contact information is provided below. To participate in the national program, for information on setting up a volunteer program, or to receive a copy of the Guidelines for Nocturnal Owl Monitoring in North America contact: Jody Allair - Phone - 1-888-448-2473 or E-mail:

The Guidelines are also available by downloading hereYou will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read or print this file. If you don't have this program, it can be downloaded free of charge at:

getacro.gif (712 bytes)

Regional Contacts


Lisa Takats Priestley, Beaver Hill Bird Observatory, Box 1418, Edmonton, AB T5J 2N5 E-mail:

Atlantic Canada

Laura McFarlane Tranquilla, Bird Studies Canada, P.O. Box 6227, 17 Waterfowl Lane, Sackville, NB E4L 1G6. Ph: (709) 770-6923, E-mail:

British Columbia

Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada, 1330 Debeck Road, S.11, C.96, RR#1, Naramata, BC V0H 1N0. Ph: (250) 496-4049, E-mail:


Jim Duncan, Manitoba Conservation, Box 24, 200 Saulteaux Crescent, Winnipeg, MB R3J 3W3. Ph: (204) 945-7465, E-mail:

Northwest Territories

Tracy Hillis, 3510 McDonald Drive, Yellowknife, NT X1A 2H1 E-mail: 


Kathy Jones, Bird Studies Canada, P.O. Box 160, Port Rowan, ON N0E 1M0. Ph: (519) 586-3531 Ext. 124, E-mail:


Andrew Coughlan, Bird Studies Canada, Études d'Oiseaux Canada 801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville Québec, Québec G1J 0C3  Ph: 1-866-518-0212 E-mail:


Al Smith, E-mail:


Return to Top of Page
Return to Previous Page