All small forest owls rely on tree cavities for nesting. But what happens when these cavities begin to disappear?
From deep within aspen groves in northern Utah to the riparian canyon and coniferous forests in southeastern Arizona, a suite of small forest owl species—many roughly the size of a human hand—seek out tree cavities, hollow openings such as those carved by woodpeckers, to build their nests. The majority of species are nocturnal, hunting for insects, small mammals, and birds under the cover of darkness, taking moths, beetles, and even the occasional bat on the wing.
But climate change threatens to disrupt the routine of some of these species. Scientists predict that within this century, aspen forests may all but disappear in many areas. Natural tree cavities will disappear too, affecting not only owls, but other species that rely on these cavities for nesting. Climate-related changes may also disturb the owls’ food sources—for example, warmer temperatures could affect the timing of when insects or mice emerge from eggs and burrows, timing which many owl’s breeding seasons are carefully linked to.
Join Earthwatch and partner HawkWatch International in one of two locations—in northern Utah or southeastern Arizona—to study owl ecology in several unique habitats and learn about nesting and breeding behaviors and potential climate change impacts to owls and other wildlife. During the day, you’ll measure owl habitat—locating tree cavities and taking GPS and other measurements. At night, you’ll listen for the low-pitched ‘boop’ of the Flammulated Owl, the morse-code call of the Whiskered Screech-owl, the bouncing ball song of the Western Screech-owl, or the non-stop ‘reverse signal’ tooting of the Northern Saw-whet owl while you survey for, capture and band owls that fly above you.