Researchers all ears in effort to save endangered western screech owl

Habitat Acquisition Trust needs helpers to monitor birds

Researchers and “citizen scientists” will take to wooded areas in the Greater Victoria region this year in an effort to help save endangered western screech owls.

The project, sponsored by the Habitat Acquisition Trust, uses biologists and volunteers to learn about the small owls. Just 20 of the birds are thought to exist in the region.

February to April is the screech owls’ breeding season and volunteers listen for their distinctive courtship calls in areas where they have been known to nest in the past.

Researchers will also use automated recording units, which record the audible sounds of the birds. The devices are located in areas where screech owls have been heard, said Paige Erickson-McGee, HAT’s community and development coordinator.

Once commonly heard in Greater Victoria, western screech owl numbers have decreased by more than 90 per cent over the last 10 years. The HAT program is vital in saving the birds, aid biologist Tanya Tripp.

“It’s beyond just a feel good project. It’s actually making a difference.”

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