Monday, April 2, 2012

Not Just Another Acorn In A Tree

Meet Acorn—one of our most popular education ambassadors here at the World Bird Sanctuary.
Acorn - our 17 year old red phase Eastern Screech Owl
Acorn is an Eastern Screech Owl who came to WBS as an orphaned chick through our Wildlife Hospital 17 years ago.  She has been in our education department ever since then.   The lifespan of an Eastern Screech Owl ranges from 7-10 years in the wild and longer in captivity. 

Acorn is a wonderful little bird with a lot of spirit.  Almost every time I pick her up in the morning she vocalizes to me.  Even though her vocalizations are quite endearing and cute, they belie the ferocity of these adorable little creatures in the wild.  Ounce for ounce they are one of the fiercest predators in the avian world. They can be very territorial and aggressive when it comes to breeding season.  They have been known to dive bomb larger animals like dogs or cats and even people when they are close to their nest!  These small animals are very fearless! 

Screech owls can weigh between five to nine ounces, which is very small.  Their diet consists of small mammals such as mice, birds, and even large insects when they are abundant during the summer.
Here is Acorn in her miniature sized jump box
Eastern screech owls have two color phases--a red phase and a grey phase.  Acorn is a red phase and above you can see her in her little jump box in our weathering area at the Nature Center.  A jump box is a man-made perch that gives shelter from wind and rain and security from the view of some of our larger birds (Screech Owls’ small size also makes them prey).  Some of the larger birds have jump boxes too, but theirs are bigger. 
This is Twig, another one of our Eastern screech owls.  He is a grey color phase
On the exhibit line past our wildlife hospital we have some eagles that are on jump boxes also.  A weathering area is an outdoor display area that our birds go to during the day to experience the full gamut of weather elements, such as sunlight, wind, rain, temperature, and sounds and sights from other things in the environment.

There are over 200 species of owls in the world.  They range from the smallest, which is an Elf Owl that can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, to the largest species which is the Eurasian Eagle Owl that has a wingspan of 5-7 feet!  Screech owls are the 12th smallest species of owl.  We do not have any Elf owls at WBS, but we do have several Eurasian Eagle owls. 

Eastern screech owls are found only in North America, and range between southern Mexico and east of the Rocky Mountains.  They tend to live mostly in wooded regions around rural areas and residential areas.  You can sometimes find them in your own backyard! Their population is doing well, but individuals will often become a victim to vehicle collisions because of their proximity to humans. 
Twig's grey coloring makes him difficult to spot against the bark of an oak tree
Eastern Screech Owls nest in tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, and man-made nest boxes .  We have nest box plans at the World Bird Sanctuary if you would be interested in making a home for these amazing little bundles of feathers. 

Screech Owls are a great animal to keep around if you have a rodent problem!  They have been seen visiting backyard bird feeders at night to capture mice in search of bird seed that has fallen from the feeders.  Also, while they are there they have been known to take baths in the birdbaths too!  I would love to see to that! 

Acorn is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program. To adopt Acorn click here to go to the Adopt a Bird page on our website—or to find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible. 

I invite you to come and visit Acorn at our Nature Center and find out what all the cuteness is about!

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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