|Great Horned Owl at HNWR, by Mike Chiles|
Happy Owl-o-ween! Although 8 species of owls have been seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the most frequently seen owls at Hagerman are listed in the Bird Checklist only as “Occasional” or seen a few times in a season; they are the Eastern Screech Owl, the Great Horned Owl, and the Barred Owl.
Interesting facts about owls, from Texas Parks &Wildlife include:
- Most owls are active primarily at twilight and by night.
- Owl flight is silent, thanks to the combination of large wings, small bodies and special fringed and velvet textured feathers which deaden sound.
- Owls have superb eyesight, between 35 and 100 times the sensitivity of the human eye, and excellent night vision.
- Owl vision is binocular and while, unlike humans, the owl cannot rotate its eyeballs, it can rotate its neck from 180 degrees up to 270 degrees.
- Owls have excellent hearing, with ear openings concealed behind the edges of the facial eye disks, which can be moved to listen in different directions. Their hearing is specially tuned to detect high-frequency sounds made by prey.
- Ear tufts do not play a part in the owl’s hearing; birds do not have protruding external ears.
Owls are credited with possessing great wisdom in myth and folklore, as in this short anonymous poem found on the TPWD site:
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird.
Owls have also been traditionally associated with evil spirits and Halloween, perhaps because of their eerie calls and night-time activity. Have a little Halloween fun with these recorded owl calls from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
This post was originally published on 10/31/2013.