Friday, October 2, 2015
The story of how Coal, the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), came to the World Bird Sanctuary is unusual to say the least!
Coal, a Great Horned Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
He arrived in 1984 while still an egg, from a coal plant in Florida. A female owl had laid an egg under a seldom-used coal conveyor belt! When they were getting ready to use this area a worker was inspecting it and found the “nest” under the conveyor. The owl had scraped a bowl in the coal dust and laid two eggs in it.
Our founder, Walter Crawford, happened to be in Tampa on business at the time, and received a call saying that there were two black eggs under the conveyor belt. The concept of black eggs sounded odd so he went to the plant to check it out. He ended up taking the eggs because they would have been destroyed when the conveyer started, acquired permission from wildlife officials, and brought them back from Florida in his pocket. He did not really think they would hatch but in the end Coal hatched and his origin is how he received his name. Surprisingly, he did not have any ill effects from the coal dust.
Having been hatched and raised by humans, Coal is very calm and accustomed to being around people. This makes him a great member of our education department as they travel all over the country and present hundreds of programs every year. Each year our programs are viewed by close to a million people, and while Coal doesn’t take part in all of them, he certainly travels a lot!
Look for Coal in the weathering area (photo: Gay Schroer)
Lately, Coal has been busy with our ‘Owl Prowl’ programs, which take place from November to March. We introduce our visitors to various owl species and then go for a night hike to see if we can ‘hoot’ to find any wild owls that live in the neighborhood. Coal is a great part of the program because he will hoot at the least suggestion of another owl (or person!) hooting to him! To hear an owl live and listen for wild ones to answer is such a big thrill!
When we refer to Coal as “he” it is because we believe him to be a male due to his small size. As with most birds of prey, the females are larger than the males. To determine the sex, as there are no external indications, we would need to take blood samples, which is a stressful procedure for the birds!
When you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, look for Coal in the weathering area behind the Nature Center. This is where he usually resides when not traveling to an education program with our staff.
As with all of our animals, Coal is available for adoption through out Adopt A Bird program. To adopt Coal, Click Here, or call 636-861-3225 and ask to speak to Marion.
Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer