Great Horned Owl (FYI: PROVINCIAL BIRD OF ALBERTA)
Well, it is early in the morning...sometimes I feel like an owl (nocturnal)...I wish I could sleep, and since my neighbor friend who is also nocturnal at times has not called to do a Walmart run (it is open 24 hours you know --great way to beat the Christmas rush)...I just have my computer (as I have already mopped) to keep me company tonight. This may seem boring to most -- but here are some of the reasons why I have always thought owls were pretty awesome birds.
My intro with owls came when Chad and I found a dead snowy owl in the trees at the airport house. We took it home and kept it in our freezer (with the intent of someday stuffing it of course--otherwise it would have just been weird to keep a dead owl in our freezer)...We hauled that little owl carcass around with us wherever we moved to...It moved with us from the airport, to raymond, from raymond to the clear lake farm, from the clear lake farm to the chicken coops and then was finally deemed fit for a farewell when dad moved up to Calgary. We never did get it stuffed.
When I went to University I took up "owling" with a guy that Chad had met at Mount Royal. This very scientific past time involved going out late at night...driving to some remote (edge of the city or out of the city) forested location, taking a starry stroll into the forest...and playing playbacks of owl calls. This often would result in a heated conversation between the nearest owl in the area and our cd player...I have been dive-bombed by many a feisty Saw-whet. This hobby lasted all 4 years of University (with regular weekly, sometimes binightly owling outings)...and came to an abrupt end somewhere in my 4th year once I realized that my owling buddy/driver was adding a little something extra to his hot beverage to keep him warm at night. I suddenly became a little "too busy" if you know what I mean!!
The BBO was the next owl encounter...I was a bird bander and though I was only trained catching and banding songbirds, I did accompany other banders in their raptor banding expeditions...this involved climbing a tree in head-to-toe armor (protective parent birds), taking the little owlets out of the nest, putting them in a sac, lowering them to the ground, placing bands around their legs, placing them back in the sac, and getting them back up the tree and into the nest. Also, one of my daily chores as a bander at the BBO was radio tracking a Northern Saw-Whet pair...until they became some other raptors lunch. It was fun while it lasted.
IBS was the next owl adventure where I once again resumed my familiar past time of hauling around owl carcass. And this time not only did I have a beautiful stuffed snowy owl, but a great grey, a Northern Saw-whet, and a great horned owl all accompanied me to various places in the city while I shared just how cool these birds really are.
And in case you didn't know....Here are some of my favorite owl facts:
1. The most common foot arrangement is Anisodactyl and describes a foot having three toes in front and one behind.
Owls are cool because their feet are specially designed in a way that they can have an Anisodactyl foot formation or they can rotate their outside toe so it is in the back (now having two toes in front and toe toes in back)...a zygodactyl foot formation...which serves them well when catching prey..."When its feet touch the prey, its toes snap together like an avian mousetrap".
2. Parabolic Facial Discs...Owls have an excellent sense of hearing...their faces are shaped much like a parabolic dish (or satellite dish)...and that is what helps the sound to collect, amplified and then be directed to the ear openings. (you can experiment with this concept by trying to listen to a quiet radio...then cup your hands around your ears...the sound will be amplified).
Silent flight gives Owls the ability to capture prey by stealth, and also allows the Owl to use its hearing to locate potential prey. This adaptation is not present on some Owl species that hunt in the daytime.