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Birds of Prey - Owls

Posted Monday, December 3, 2012, at 7:37 AM

Barn owl (nicknamed monkey-faced owl) Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Because of folklore, owls have gained a somewhat sinister reputation for being witch pets, or "familiars". I have met a lot of people who seem "spooked" by owls.

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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What a great picture that is....thanks for posting it!....This info was vary interesting to me I love all animals and I am vary intrigued by their awesomeness....kinda makes ya wonder what God was thinking when he made a few..Thanks!

-- Posted by chefgrape on Mon, Dec 3, 2012, at 12:25 PM

I wonder if the skunk is a favorite because it stands out so well on a dark night, at least if it has white, like it usually does.

Are owls affected by rabies?

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Dec 3, 2012, at 12:55 PM

Thanks, chefgrape! Actually, I believe that since God took so much time and effort to make all of these creatures, He has to take care of me as well!

-- Posted by wildwoman on Tue, Dec 4, 2012, at 7:46 AM

Steve, from what I know there has been no evidence of any birds found carrying the rabies virus or having died from it. Usually, when a bird or small wild mammal is bitten by a rabid animal it dies from trauma rather than rabies, which takes time to develop.

However, rabies can supposedly be carried by any warm-blooded animal.

Many animals carry the rabies virus but never develop symtpoms from it.

-- Posted by wildwoman on Tue, Dec 4, 2012, at 7:50 AM

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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.
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