A word for the wise

I spend a lot of my time in an urban area with lights on every corner and sirens as my nightly serenade, but I have lived in areas where I could listen to owls calling to each other in the darkness. I was reminded of that fact a few days ago while looking at specimens in an ornithology lab- although the songbirds were pretty, I kept going back to the owls. (And the screech-owl on campus last week was pretty exciting, too.) I don’t know very much, however, about owl biology, conservation, or population status (or for that matter, how to identify more than a few species), so it seems right to add a new goal to my current pursuit of knowledge.

I love the faces of barn owls!

I love the faces of barn owls!

This month I will be exploring the condition of owls around the world (depending on what I find, there may be particular attention to barn and barred owls, my two favorites)- I imagine that they share many of the issues facing birds in general. It is also possible that, as carnivores, they have additional or different problems. And I come to the table with very little background knowledge, aside from knowing that they are nocturnal, largely meat-eating, and have sharpened eyesight and hearing for detecting prey. (From contact with rehabilitated owls, I think that they sometimes enjoy flying as closely to your head as possible, but that seems beside the point…) I believe that some owl populations in more northern locations are closely linked to the rise and fall of prey populations, and I had heard something about a decline in nesting places for barn owls as old buildings were demolished and church steeples covered with mesh to keep them out, but that about exhausts my knowledge of owl ecology.

My hope is that I can learn quite a bit over the next few weeks about how owls are faring in the world today and their prospects for the future. It may be that they are all doing quite well, which would be wonderful, but it may be that they could use a leg (or a wing) up. So if you enjoy looking at and listening to owls as much as I do, then this month’s posts should be right up your alley.

Posted February 2, 2014 by Mirka Zapletal in Birds

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