Use of ultraviolet (UV) light, which causes porphyrin pigments in feathers of some birds to fluoresce, provides a simple, effective means of distinguishing multiple generations of flight feathers in owls. This permits easier and more accurate classification of age of adult owls. This lighting technique has been used extensively with Barn Owls (Tyto alba) and Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus) and works well on a variety of owl species at night in the field, and should have wide applicability among owl researchers. The relative ages of the feathers can be easily distinguished by the intensity of fluorescence they exhibit when the ventral surfaces of primaries and secondaries are exposed to UV (black) light. This allows rapid and accurate assessment of molt and, in turn, the assignment of an age classification for the owl.
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Vol. 123 • No. 2