Friday, May 22, 2009


Owl is in center bottom of photo
Great Snowy Owl

As long as we are talking about raptors, let's take a few minutes and think about owls and of course, crows.

Living in Fargo with a person who loves nature, I have been mentored.

I mean, how many of you hear crows cawing and think, "Oh, there must be an owl somewhere". The first summer here, I heard all these annoying crows and made some remark about I wish they would quit. Tom told me they had an owl surrounded somewhere. Owls eat crow eggs and so they were 'telling it off'.

Last winter late in February, I was sitting here at the desk with the blinds open and about a block away, I saw an owl fly into a tree followed by a murder of crows, which surrounded the owl and flew in close as if to say, this is what you get. As you can see by the pictures, a 200mm lens wasn't quite enough and only because I tell you it was crows and an owl would you know. (It reminds me of a great friend named Jim who snail mailed me a picture of a whale--on the back it said, "Well, I thought it was closer."

Where do owls live, anyway? Just about anywhere from barns to forests. They eat, as we said, eggs as well as mice and bats. I did not know they could live as long as 27 years. They are at the top of their food chain, humans are there only predator.

The owl I am most enamoured by is the Great Snowy, which I have only seen at the zoo in South Dakota. The ghostlike snowy owl has unmistakable white plumage that echoes its Arctic origins. These large owls breed on the Arctic tundra, where females lay a clutch of 3 to 11 eggs. Clutch size depends upon the availability of food, and in particularly lean times a usually monogamous pair of owls may not breed at all.

Parents are territorial and will defend their nests against all comers—even wolves.Young owls, especially males, get whiter as they get older. Females are darker than males, with dusky spotting, and never become totally white. Some elderly males do become completely white, though many retain small flecks of dusky plumage. The snowy owl is a patient hunter that perches and waits to identify its prey before soaring off in pursuit. Snowy owls have keen eyesight and great hearing, which can help them find prey that is invisible under thick vegetation or snow cover. The owls deftly snatch their quarry with their sharp talons.

A snowy owl's preferred meal is lemmings—many lemmings. An adult may eat more than 1,600 lemmings a year, or three to five every day. The birds supplement their diet with rabbits, rodents, birds, and fish.

Listen! Hear anything?

Me neither!


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