Western Great Lakes Owl Monitoring


Growing concern about changes in the distribution, population status, and habitat loss for many species of northern forest owls has lead several of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s natural resource organizations to develop plans for an Owl Monitoring project. Currently, populations of forest owls are poorly monitored by existing bird surveys, such as the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Counts. The Owl Monitoring project will fill this gap with a new volunteer-based owl survey to be conducted in early to late April each year.

The Minnesota Frog & Toad Calling Survey (MFTCS) and the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) already use routes located in the northern forest region. These routes will be used for the Owl Monitoring project. Volunteers interested in owl conservation are encouraged to participate in the Owl Monitoring project.


Volunteers will be asked to survey their assigned route once during the survey period, after dark. The survey period falls between April 01 and April 15. Each route will have 10 stations, spaced exactly 1 mile apart. A five-minute “passive” listening period for calling owls will be done at each station (no playbacks will be used). Given the number of stations (10/route) and the five-minute listening period, each route surveyed should take less than 2.0 hours to complete.

Owl monitoring volunteers will be provided with the necessary training and materials, including a CD of northern owl calls. Volunteers will be required to become on-line certified prior to conducting a survey. Every owl species detected will be recorded on a data sheet, including direction and estimated distance to each owl. At each station the time, temperature, moon visibility, cloud cover, precipitation level and type, wind speed, snow cover and depth, and noise level will be recorded.

Become a Volunteer

If you are interested in monitoring owls in Minnesota or Wisconsin, or would like additional information, please contact Margie Menzies (MN) or Ryan Brady (WI). They will contact you about the route, training materials, and datasheets used in the survey.  The survey period is between April 1 and April 15, and the route is run ONCE during that time period.

MN Volunteer Coordinator
Margie Menzies

WI Volunteer Coordinator
Ryan Brady

Project Coordinator
Dave Grosshuesch

Forms & Instructions

You can open the following forms by clicking on the links. After you have opened each file, you can either print it or save it to your computer. You need Acrobat Reader to open these documents (and the owl monitoring reports).

Annual Reports

Image Credits: Debbie Waters