Small forest owls (including our focal species: Elf Owl, Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, Whiskered Screech-owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Western Screech-owl) constitute a sub-guild of species that adopt tree hollows for roosting and nesting. Despite cultural popularity, many species of small owl, both in the western US and globally, remain understudied. Surprisingly, even in the western United States many knowledge gaps exist regarding the natural history and ecology of some forest owl species. In fact, five of our six focal species are listed as species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) in Arizona’s Wildlife Action Plan. Flammulated Owls are considered SGCN’s in 7 of 11 western states in their range, Whiskered Screech-owls and Elf Owls are SGCN’s in 100 percent of the states where they occur (2 of 2 and 3 of 3, respectively). The distribution and dynamics of tree hollows in different types of forest are equally understudied.
In 2016 Dave launched Following Forest Owls (FFO), a collaborative, community science driven research program that partners HawkWatch International, the Earthwatch Institute, the AMNH’s Southwestern Research Station, the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, the Forest Service, Tracy Aviary, and over 80 community scientists from across the US and globe each year. Teams of community scientists join research staff in the field at one of two study sites: the Wasatch Mountains in Northern Utah or the Chiricahua Mountains in southeast Arizona. Here we study the ecology of six small owl species and the tree hollows they adopt as roosting and nesting sites.