Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Overly Outstanding Owls

Anyone who knew me before my internship at World Bird Sanctuary knows that I absolutely love owls.  Anyone who met or spoke to me after the start of my internship knows that my all time favorite bird is Tigger, the Tawny Owl.

Many people love owls because they are adorable, which is completely true.  However, they are also amazing creatures!  For example, owls can turn their heads 270 degrees around.  This  enables them to look over their right shoulder, completely behind them, and then over their left shoulder in the same glance! 

Most owl species have fringing on their outer wing feathers, which muffles air flowing over their wings and gives them silent flight.  This makes it much easier to sneak up on their prey. 
Cupid the Barn Owl steals everyone's heart
One truly remarkable owl species is the Barn Owl.  You can find videos of these amazing birds online that demonstrate just how incredible these birds really are.  One such video that I found demonstrates just how incredible a Barn Owl's sense of hearing truly is.  The one in the video is trained that a certain sound leads to food and is trained to find the source of the sound.  You can see that the sound device is placed in an area of tall grass where it is not visible. As soon as the sound is made the owl flies directly to the source. In slow motion, you can see the owl's head is completely locked right on target the entire time. These birds are some of the best hunters I have ever seen. 
Peabody the Tawny Owl waiting for his cue to fly onstage (photo: Mike Cerutti)
Many people, myself included, love Tawny Owls because they are so adorable.  However, these birds are considered a prey species.  Tawny Owls share habitat with the second largest owl species, the Eurasian Eagle Owl.  Because of this, Tawny Owls are known to be quite aggressive.  These birds will chase larger birds and animals from their territory. People who have hobbies like bird watching and wildlife photography will actually avoid Tawny Owl territory during breeding season.  These owls have been known to fly after people, as well as other predators, to flush them out of the Tawny Owl territory.

I have been able to witness some of these adaptations this summer while working at WBS’s Stone Zoo bird show in Boston.  We have two great owls with us--Cupid, the Barn Owl, and Peabody, the Tawny Owl. 
Don't let Tigger's sleepy demeanor fool you--Tawny Owls can be fierce
There are many more amazing adaptations and traits of owls that I enjoy learning about every day that I work with these birds.

If you live in or are visiting the Boston area this summer, be sure to schedule a visit to Stone Zoo—and in particular, the bird show.  I think you will agree with me that these beautiful creatures are amazing!

Submitted by Jamie Cobetto, World Bird Sanctuary Stone Zoo Birds of Prey Show Trainer/Naturalist

(photo: Flannery O'brien)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jamie, those owls are almost as cute as you. Keep enjoying the shows and sharing your knowledge of those cuties. `~ mike's mom