Monday, March 22, 2010

Who Gives A Hoot

There are about 200 different species of owls worldwide. They are found in all regions of the Earth except Antarctica most of Greenland, and some remote islands. Though owls are typically solitary, the collective noun for a group of owls is a parliament. The first owl  pictured here is a Barred Owl, and is a common owl found in the mid-west around here. This is a vocal owl and the one you probably here most often at night.

Owls have large forward-facing eyes and ear-holes, a hawk-like beak, a flat face, and usually a conspicuous circle of feathers, (facial disc), around each eye. Although owls have binocular vision, their large eyes are fixed in their sockets, as with other birds, and they must turn their entire head to change views. Most birds of prey sport eyes on the sides of their heads, but the stereoscopic nature of the owl's forward-facing eyes permits a greater sense of depth perception necessary for low-light hunting.

The owl pictured above is a common Barn Owl. The Barn Owl is one of the most wide-spread of all land birds. They are found on all continents (except Antartica).  Owls are farsighted and are unable to see anything clearly within a few centimeters of their eyes. Caught prey can be felt by owls with the use of filoplumes, which are small hair-like feathers on the beak and feet that act as "feelers". Their far vision, particularly in low light, is exceptionally good. Contrary to popular myth, an owl cannot turn its head completely backwards. It can turn its head 135 degrees in either direction; it can thus look behind its own shoulders, with a total 270-degree field of view
The owl pictured above  is a Short-eared Owl. This is another owl species that can be found in our area. Generally it is nocturnal, but often become active 30-60 minutes before sunset. Much of the owls' hunting strategy depends on stealth and surprise. Owls have at least two adaptations that aid them in achieving stealth. First, the dull coloration of owls' feathers can render them almost invisible under certain conditions. Secondly, serrated edges on the leading edge owls' remiges muffle an owl's wingbeats, allowing its flight to be practically silent. Some fish-eating owls, for which silence is of no evolutionary advantage, lack this adaptation.

This cute little fellow above is a Northern Pygmy Owl. They are not native to this area and can be found in the Rocky Mountains west to California. The Northern Pygmy Owl is a tiny, woodland, diurnal Owl that is most active between dawn and dusk. This little guy is usually about 6-7 inches in height.

So how did I get such amazing closeups on these owls? These are all captive owls that I have photographed at various bird sanctuary's, zoo's, or raptor rehabilitation centers. They are difficult, but not impossible to photograph in the wild.  The single best resource for information on owls that I have found on the internet is called The Owl Pages. Here is the link.

This is a Spectacled Owl, and can be found in South America

1 comment:

  1. I love your title: "Who Gives a Hoot". Beautiful pictures and excellent info once again.