Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Whooo''s Who?

With the advent of Fall leaf color, Thanksgiving pumpkins, and cold crisp weather, love is in the air here in Missouri—at least it is if you’re an owl!

If you happen to be outdoors in the evening or late at night you may hear an owl calling.  At this time of the year our feathered creatures of the night are busy claiming a territory, and soon will be advertising for a mate. 

In our last blog we posed a little owl quiz with links to some audio bites of owl calls to test your knowledge.  Here are the answers to our quiz, as well as a few facts about each of those fascinating creatures.

Each of the photos is of a resident of the World Bird Sanctuary and represents his or her species.

Owl photo collage: Gay Schroer
Photo #1 is Timber the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
Photo #2 is Jake the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Photo #3 is Goblin the Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Photo #4 is Xena the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)
Photo #5 is Olaf the Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Photo #6 is Buzz the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
Photo #7 is Jersey the Barred Owl  (Strix varia)
Photo #8 is Mia the Spectacled Owl  (Pulsatrix perspicillata)

Now for the answers to our quiz:
Jersey the Barred Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
A.            This owl’s call seems to be concerned about your dinner.  Photo #7 – Jersey the Barred Owl.  This bird’s call is said to sound like “Who, who, who cooks for-you” “Who, who, who cooks for-you-all”.  Barred owls are one of the most common owls in the Eastern U.S.  This bird is often locally referred to as a “hoot” owl.
Goblin a Common Barn Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
B.            No wimpy hooting for this bird—it communicates with a high-pitched hissing scream.  This would be #3.  Pictured is Goblin the Common Barn Owl.  Did you know that Barn Owls are found on every continent except Antarctica?  Barn Owls have been on the endangered list here in Missouri due to habitat loss.  For a number of years WBS has been at the forefront of an effort to release captive bred Barn Owls back into the wild to bolster declining populations.
Timber, an Eastern Screech Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
C.            Don’t let this bird’s sweet trilling call fool you—it’s a fierce little predator.  This would be #1.  Pictured here is Timber the Eastern Screech Owl. Eastern Screech Owls are generally seen in two color phases—red and grey, although there are occasionally intermediate brown shades of these two colors.  Their call is a mellow muted trill—no hooting for this bird.
Olaf, a Saw-whet Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
D.            This owl’s call is a monotonous “hoop-hoop-hoop”, but its volume belies its diminutive size!  #5 - The Northern Saw-whet Owl has a surprisingly loud call for such a small bird.  Pictured is Olaf, a World Bird Sanctuary resident bird. When prey is plentiful, a Saw-whet Owl will kill as many as 6 mice in rapid succession, without consuming any of them. The excess food is cached in safe places and, in winter, is thawed out later by "brooding" the frozen carcass. When food is plentiful, it is common for only the head of each prey item to be eaten.
Jake, a resident Great Horned Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
E.            The male of this species calls with a low-pitched monotone “ho ho-ho hoo hoo”, and is answered with a higher pitched “girly” version of the same call.  This would be #2, the Great-horned Owl.  Pictured is Jake, a WBS resident owl.  A Great Horned Owl is powerful enough to take prey two to three times heavier than itself.  Longevity is up to 13 years in the wild and as much as 29 to 38 years in captivity.
Mia, our beautiful Spectacled Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
F.            This owl’s vocalization sounds like a knocking or tapping, “Pup-pup-pup-pup-o” issued in a rising crescendo.  (Hint – This owl is not native to the U.S., but you may have heard it if you’ve been to the World Bird Sanctuary’s weathering area lately.)  #8 is Mia the Spectacled Owl, and she can usually be found in the weathering area behind the WBS’s Nature Center building.  This owl hales from Mexico, Central and South America, most frequently found in dense tropical rain forests.  Once fledged, at about 5-6 weeks, the chicks depend on the parents for up to a year.
Buzz, a Tawny Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
G.            This owl was the inspiration for the owl in the Winnie the Pooh tales and is the most common owl in Europe—especially in England.  #6 – The Eurasian Tawny Owl will usually nest in tree holes or nest boxes in trees, and pair bonds last for life.  Even though these owls are small they will defend their nest aggressively, even attacking humans on occasion if they perceive them as a threat to the nest.
Xena, everyone's favorite Eurasian Eagle Owl (photo: Gay Schroer)
H.            This owl issues a long, booming “oo-hooh”, and may even bark and growl if it feels threatened.  This would be #4 – the Eurasian Eagle Owl.  Pictured is Xena, one of our most popular resident birds.  This largest owl species eats mainly voles and rats, but has been known to take prey as large as a Roe Deer fawn.  They nest on cliff ledges, crevices between rocks, and cave entrances, although they are not above using abandoned nests of large birds. 

To meet some of these fascinating creatures, join us for an OWL PROWL  For information on WBS Owl Prowls Click Here or call 636-225-4390, Ext. 101.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer

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