Two University of Hawaii Manoa scientists will be working with the public to gather new information about the Pueo, also known as the Hawaiian short-eared owl. Scientists from UH Manoa’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management–with the support from the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife–designed the citizen science imitative because of the lack of significant information about the owl.
Post-doctoral researcher Javier Cotin and assistant professor Melissa Price of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources will be working with interested members of the community to investigate the population size, distribution, and habitat use of the pueo on Oahu.
Citizen scientists can report sightings of the owl–Asio flammeus sandwichensis–through a web app or downloadable form. The public can also participate in organized surveys, and use photography to document behaviors, including when and where the pueo breed and the animals they prey on, and more. The website also offers contact information for the two researchers.
“It’s wonderful to work on a project where the community is so interested and supportive of conservation efforts,” said Price. Added Cotin, “The behavior of this owl is truly fascinating. I hope to unravel the mysteries of the seldom-seen pueo and look forward to collaborating with the local community to protect this unique species.”
Pueo are found on all the main Hawaiian Islands from sea level to 8,000 feet in a variety of habitats including wet and dry forests; but the owls are most common in open habitats such as grasslands, marshlands, shrublands and montane parklands, including urban areas. Unlike most owls, they are active during the day, especially in the early morning and evening, and are commonly seen hovering or soaring over open areas.
The pueo’s ability to live in lowland, non-native and rangeland habitats suggests that they may be less vulnerable to extinction than other native birds, however they are state-listed as endangered on Oahu and are likely susceptible to many of the same factors that threaten other native Hawaiian birds, including loss and degradation of habitat, predation by introduced mammals, and disease. They are also at risk of car collisions, owing to their hunting behavior, and something called “sick owl syndrome,” which is killing owls on Kauai; little is known about the syndrome, but it may be related to pesticide poisoning or food shortages.
Interested members of the public who want to contribute to the knowledge about the native bird, can find details here. The site provides information about the project and the species, a pueo distribution map, sound files of the pueo’s various calls, and a gallery of pictures of pueo and the more common introduced barn owl, with which it can be confused.
Photo courtesy of UH Manoa