Scientific study of raptors often requires the use of a lure to capture individuals for marking or collecting various data and samples. Live lure owls in the genus Bubo are commonly used with mist nets or dho-gazas to trap nesting raptors, but the use of these live lures presents ethical, logistical, and financial challenges. Although owls mounted by taxidermists and mechanical owls have been used in place of a live bird, the success of these types of lures varies widely. We created a more realistic mechanical owl with a greater range of motion than previous models, and then tested the owl on six raptor species in a variety of habitats. For all but one species, capture rates using our mechanical owl were similar to or slightly higher than those reported in studies using live lure owls or previously designed mechanical owls. Time to capture of Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) was, on average, 8 min faster when using our mechanical owl compared to a live owl. Cost analysis revealed that both the initial expense and long-term maintenance of a mechanical owl were less than that of a live lure owl. Mechanical owls can be a useful tool for capturing raptors. Although there are some drawbacks to using a mechanical owl, our results suggest that mechanical birds are comparable to live lure owls and we believe the benefits of using a mechanical owl often outweigh the costs.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1