So, here’s more about owls that we didn’t have time or space for in last week’s article. We don’t see or hear them often enough however; we try our best to keep a habitat that they are most comfortable living in.
Thank goodness volunteers and those using the trails take the time to photograph them and send the pictures to me. Thanks to Richard Trahan and Steve Ciccolo for this week's pictures.
“Owls are known as lonely birds; but it isn’t known that they have the forest as their best friend!” –Mehmet Murat Lldan
In regard to their eating habits, owls swallow their prey whole. Owls have two chambers in their stomachs. In the first chamber, all digestion parts are liquefied. In the second chamber food goes straight to their gizzard where digestive fluids are used to break down animal matter. Owls are unable to digest bones, teeth, fur or feathers. If you were to disassemble an owl pellet you might find a complete set of bones. You can reconstruct those bones into a perfect skeleton of the owl’s meal.
I have been told that people remember examining an owl pellet in high school or college which is interesting to hear. I don’t remember doing that at Port St. Joe High School and think it would be awesome to do now.
Owls generally mate for life. In only approximately 25 percent of the time owls might change mates. How do they know when to call it quits and divorce — as one researcher put it? If a couple produces fewer eggs per brood it is time to split and find a better mate. So, they split – for the sake of the kids.
Where will you find an owl’s nest? A cavity in mature trees often serve as an owl’s nest. They will actually use nests of other birds and even use nests of squirrels. Burrowing owls (one of the six in Florida) nest in the ground. They can dig their own burrow but why go to all that trouble when there are holes created by skunks, armadillos, or tortoises.
If you are interested in providing artificial nest boxes for owls, check out this website: Cornell University CornellLab of Ornithology — the Owl Page.
Everyone has heard of the sayings about owls and wisdom, such as “wise as an owl.” Not all cultures think of the owl as being wise. In fact, it’s just the opposite sometimes.
The idea that owls are wise goes way back to Greek mythology. The goddess Athena was associated with having a wisdom and she usually had an owl nearby. With their big eyes and the solemn expression, we can imagine why they thought them wise. While snakes are mentioned in connection to Athena, we definitely like owls best.
The Greeks also thought owls had some sort of inner light that allowed them to see at night. One naturalist put it this way: Owls came to represent wisdom because of their large eyes and success in hunting at night and catching creatures that humans weren’t able to detect.
Ancient Egyptians feared owls thinking they were a sign of bad luck.
A site volunteer just recently told of an owl finding a mouse buried deep in snow. It could not be seen with human eyes however; the owl was able to locate it.
According to ascentral.com. Romans thought just the opposite of good luck from owls. Ancient Romans thought owls were an omen of death. They nailed dead owls to their doors to keep any evil the owl had brought upon the household. We can imagine the smell of dead owls on one’s door would keep people away also.
Romans were not partial to owls at all and believed them to be the forebearer of defeat in battle. The superstitions Romans believed about owls definitely depicted them as evil.
Barn owls were thought of as darkness and darkness with death during the Middle Ages.
Recorded history tells us in some cultures owls could be a sign of good luck or prosperous times ahead.
If that is the case, let’s all look for owls. Today though we know owls are just owls. Past site volunteers at the Buffer named their new home the “The Salty Owl” as it was the first bird they saw on this property. It certainly brought them good luck.
The website www.mentalfloss.com says owls are probably not any smarter than many other birds. They contend that owls are worse at problem solving than other big-brained birds such as crows and parrots.
And just how do researchers know this? Owls repeatedly failed easy cognitive tests – pulling a string to get a treat – which other birds had learned. Who-o-o-o knew? Just couldn’t resist the pun.
In literature owls appear in many publications, from The Iliad to Winnie the Pooh and the Harry Potter series.
Since owls might be considered a symbol of happiness and protection it is much more pleasant to think about than misfortune. In recent times, a psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa reports studies show “night owls” are more likely to be more intelligent than early birds. This is directly opposite of what I used to tell our teenage girls and students on field trips. My saying was, “he who hoots with the owls cannot soar with the eagles in the morning.”
Owls might just be the original users of camouflage as they blend in so well with their surroundings. Their feathers blend right in with their environment.
Owls are farsighted as they can’t see things up close to their eyes clearly. With their extraordinary hearing whoooo….needs 20-20 vision?
Fun Facts: The largest owl on earth is the Blakiston fish owl. It is one of the rarest species. This owl has a wingspan of 6 feet. You will only find this owl in Japan, China, Russia and possibly North Korea. It is an endangered bird.
The smallest species of owl in the world is the elf owl. It stands less than 6 inches tall and weighs a little less than a golf ball.
If you see an owl, count it as great fortune. If you see it in nature you will be fortunate indeed.
Come to the Buffer Preserve and sit in the tower, walk the trails, take pictures and enjoy nature at its finest. Will you be guaranteed to see an owl, eagle, deer or other birds or animals? No, as they are not in cages but in their natural habitats. Patience will get you some amazing sights and pictures.
As our Preserve Manager Dylan Shoemaker loves to say, “It’s all good,” and for this article let’s change it to “It’s owl good!”
This article originally appeared on The Star: Buffer Preserve proves it's an 'owl-some' place