Saturday, December 22, 2012

Xena--A Most Impressive Bird

The next bird that I want to introduce to you is such a wonderful animal that I am positive that you will fall in love with her just as I did.  Her name is Xena and she is a Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo).
Xena is a favorite with guests because of her regal bearing and piercing eyes
Eurasian Eagle Owls are native to Europe, Asia, and Northeast Africa.  They live in mostly wooded habitats like coniferous forests, farmlands, grasslands, and even some deserts.  Of the 287 owl species in the world, Eurasian Eagle Owls are the largest!

Depending if it’s a male or female, they stand from two to two and a half feet tall and weigh from four to seven pounds.  Their wingspan ranges from five to seven feet!  As in most birds of prey, females are about a third larger than males.  This is believed to be because greater size can help them better defend their clutch (a group of eggs or chicks) and nest and to also incubate the clutch better with increased surface area of the body. 

Their diet is variable and consists of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and sometimes fish.  The largest animal they have been known to prey upon is small roe deer, which are about 30 pounds in weight!  They of course could not pick up a 30 pound deer and fly away with it.  A good rule of thumb is that usually a bird of prey can pick up a third of its own body weight.  Eagle owls have large orange eyes, disks of feathers around each eye, feather tufts on top of their head, black and various shades of brown feathers covering their body, eight sharp talons, and a sharp curved upper beak. 

Take a look at Xena in the photo above, isn’t she just beautiful?  Do you notice the feather tufts on her head? They may look similar to the tufts you’ve seen on another owl--the Great Horned Owl.  Strangely enough, these two owl species that live oceans apart are actually closely related!

Breeding season for owls is during the winter.  Eagle owls will start laying eggs in January and February.  They nest on high rocky cliffs and generally lay from one to four white eggs per clutch.  The male will do most of the hunting while the female will stay at the nest and feed and protect the clutch.  The female will incubate the eggs for 31-36 days.  After the eggs have hatched, the chicks will stay in the nest for 7-8 weeks.  When they fledge (leave the nest), the parents will still care for them for another 20-24 weeks.  The chicks will be on their own around 8 months old. 

A Eurasian Eagle Owl’s lifespan in the wild can be up to 20 years—and even double that or more in captivity.  Xena was hatched in captivity in 1999 at the World Bird Sanctuary, so she is 14 years old this year. The longest Eurasian Eagle Owl lifespan on record in captivity is 60 years old. 

The Eagle Owl call is described as a monotonous “oohu-oohu-oohu” and will also make an “oo-hooh” call as well.  The females will make a “kraah” sound during mating season.  The males have a deep voice and the females have a higher pitched voice. The first time I heard Xena call, I couldn’t believe it!  She is such a big gorgeous bird and the sound that came out of her didn’t seem to belong.  It was such a high-pitched sound that it made me laugh in amazement! 
Xena has been the feature bird for the photo op at many WBS special events
Xena is part of the Education Department at the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS).  She helps educate people at programs either on site at WBS, off site in a neighboring town, or even out of state!  Xena has also been in numerous parades in St. Louis, MO and St. Genevieve, MO, and even the Tournament of Roses Parade in Los Angeles, CA!  She is a seemingly easy- going bird that seems to like standing on the ground next to her perch outdoors, or take a bath in her water bowl when it’s raining.  She likes to eat rabbit, chicks, mice, and venison, but her favorite food is rat!  Yummy!   Because of her easy-going disposition she has often been the feature bird for the photo op at WBS special events.

Xena is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  She can be seen at the Monsanto Environmental Education Center at the World Bird Sanctuary, which is open daily from 8am-5pm.

Xena is a very mesmerizing bird.  You will be drawn toward her as soon as you see her!  You should stop on by and visit her!

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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