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Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013
Birds of Prey - OwlsPosted Monday, December 3, 2012, at 7:37 AM
Barn owl (nicknamed monkey-faced owl) Photo from Wikimedia Commons
In our part of Tennessee we have only 4 types of owls - great-horned, barred, barn and screech. The great-horned is the largest and screech owls are the smallest. Coloration differences only exist in screech owls, and here you will see a red-phase owl and a gray-phase owl.
In the early hours of the morning, and only during the winter, I can hear great-horned owls calling each other. These calls are soft whoo-hoo noises - I find it interesting that the largest owl makes the softest noise. And, yes, sometimes you can find me on the deck -talking to the owls in the whoo-hoo language.
On the other hand, barred owls sound like shrieking banshees. I will never forget living in Joelton and hearing this noise for the first time - I thought it was someone screaming.
When owls are stationary in a tree, you can see them imitating bobble-head dolls - they have to make this motion in order to focus their vision - technically it is called triangulation.
Of the four types of owls, barn owls are actually listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife list of "animals in need of management". This is only a couple of levels below the endangered status. The primary reason for their scarcity is loss of habit.
I learned something very interesting during my first encounter with an injured great-horned owl. The bird had been hit by a vehicle and had a broken wing. Great-horned owls have a food that they favor above all of the rest - fresh skunk! Because they eat it so often, the owls smell like skunks!
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Vicky Carder is a Shelbyville native. In 1991 she founded Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Nashville. There she served as Executive Director for more than 12 years. The Center is the largest wildlife hospital in Middle Tennessee. She has published in wildlife national and international journals. Now she wants to share her knowledge of native wildlife and some of the experiences she had while working with wildlife.