Park Commission to Host Saw-Whet Owl Banding Program

Owl banding

Join the Mercer County Park Commission’s team of trained owl banders at the Historic Hunt Barn on select evenings this fall to learn more about one of nature’s most elusive and best-hidden birds.

The Park Commission will be opening the Northern Saw-whet Owl (NSWO) banding station to the public to share a “behind the nets” tour of an active owl banding operation. The Saw-whet Owl Banding Programs will take place October 28 from 8 to 10pm and November 4 and 11 from 7:30 to 9:30pm. Visitors will learn about owl ecology, the research taking place, and see Saw-whet Owls up close as they are banded, measured and released. As part of the program, participants will join staff on a walk to the net lanes to witness a net check in the woods.

This program is $20 per adult and $10 per child; children must be at least 6 years of age and accompanied by an adult. Participants should bring a headlamp or flashlight for the net-check portion of the program. Registration is required; please call (609) 888-3218, email natureprograms@mercercounty.orgor register online at

Techniques of bird banding involve safely capturing birds in fine mesh nets. Trained staff extracts the birds to fit them with a numbered aluminum band and collect important data before release. Banding can answer questions including where birds go, how long they live and to where fledglings disperse upon leaving their nests.

Considered to be a rare bird due to how infrequently they are seen, this banding initiative teaches scientists that this species of owl is much more common to the area. Questions about population dynamics and migration patterns of owls are the focus of active field research. The data collected from such projects have the potential to help biologists and wildlife managers in protecting these treasured birds.

The Mercer County Naturalist Department offers a variety of programs and activities for adults, children and families. Offerings include hikes, birdwatching, hands-on programming and visits to wetlands, grasslands, streams, lakes and more. For information on the Nature Programs, please visit

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