Saw Whet owl- Why is the breeding population nomadic?

Many of you have already visited the saw-whet owl banding station at Williams College’s Hopkins Forest. Unfortunately, we won’t have the opportunity to visit the banding site this year. Instead, I’ll describe the methods for capturing and banding these birds.

Here is the data collected by the banding station throughout its existence:

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NSWO – captures 2001-2015.xlsxPreview the document

NSWO – net checks 2001-2015.xlsxPreview the document

NSWO – all data 2016.xlsxPreview the document

2017 owl data.xlsxPreview the document

2018data.xlsxPreview the document

2019data.xlsxPreview the document

In this lab activity you will put some of your new statistics skills to work to answer a research question using this historical data.

You will again get practice writing up a formal lab report.

Saw-whet owl
The northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is a small owl native to North America. Saw-whet owls primarily eat small mammals, and the changing availability of these food resources drives saw-whet owls to migrate southwards in the winter. These annual movements are irruptive, with especially large saw-whet owl migrations occurring approximately every four years. In eastern North America, the saw-whet owl’s permanent range includes forested habitat on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, and the wintering range extends south to the Mid-Atlantic.

Beginning in 1994, researchers studying saw whet owls coordinated their efforts through a project called “Project Owlnet”, which comprises a network of owl banding stations with standardized protocols. One of these banding stations is located in Williams College’s Hopkins Forest.

You are responsible for familiarizing yourself with the data, and then coming up with a question that you can investigate using the data collected at the Hopkins Forest banding station. The Weidensaul and Whalen papers we read and discuss in class may also inspire some ideas for focusing your report.

All of the Hopkins Forest saw-whet owl data will be posted on this Canvas assignment page.

Please write a formal lab report for this activity following the formal lab write-up instructions.

Describe your research question and the methods that were used to collect the data. You should use graphs and/or tables to clearly and succinctly present the appropriate data in your results section, and discuss your findings and implications of your results in your discussion.


Complete a report carefully constructed to express your major observations and findings. The length of the report will vary depending on the lab. While your report should be concise, it should also be detailed enough for others to understand exactly what you did, what you found, and why it’s important.

Think of the report as a scientific essay. It will have a title and sections containing:

A brief description of what should be included in each of these sections is included below.

Title. The title should summarize, as specifically as possible, the subject of the lab.
Abstract. The purpose of an abstract is to allow the reader to judge whether it would serve his or her purposes to read the entire report. A good abstract is a concise (100 to 200 words) summary of the purpose of the report, the methods, results, and the author’s major conclusions.
Introduction. Your introductory paragraphs must include:
Purpose: A single, concise statement of the major objective of the lab, i.e. what are the questions you are tying to answer.
Background: A brief summary of the topic being investigated, including any information which may be necessary in order to understand your stated purpose of the lab.
Include any hypotheses/predictions that were addressed by your project.
Cite any relevant outside sources in this section
Method. Include the information necessary to allow someone to understand what you did.
How was the data obtained?
You should not provide step by step instructions
Include geographic locations, definitions of scientific terms, and anything else necessary in order to understand what you did.
Begin with text describing trends in your data. Refer to figures/tables.
Present data (in graphs/tables) and include a concise description of trends in the data and relationships among variables
Always include the units of physical quantities and label axes of plots.
Do not explain your data or the implications of what you found in this section
Discussion. This is the most important part of the lab, as it is where you interpret your observations and results.
Give explanations for and implications of any relationships observed. Were the relationships as you expected? Why/why not?
Support your ideas with specific references to the results of your analyses. How do your observations lead to the conclusions you reached?
What are the main sources of uncertainty in interpreting your observations?

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