Identify: Owls of Iowa

Identify: Owls of Iowa

Barn_Owl_flying[1]   The nighttime serenade of these nocturnal creatures creates a world of mystery and adventure. Their camouflage colorations blend into the woodland background, making them fade out of focus as they disappear among the trees. It is thrilling when one catches a glimpse of an owl silently traveling on soft, fringed wings. Although they are difficult to spy, you can easily hear their calls floating on the wind and slipping through the trees, giving away their locations. In this blog, we will discuss owls that are year-round residents of Iowa.
Eastern Screech Owl
• Listen to the Eastern Screech Owl’s low trembling whinny sound by visiting this link: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_EasternScreech_Whinny.mp3
800px-Megascops_asio-gray[1]800px-EasternScreechOwl-Rufous[1]
• Standing at only 8-9 inches tall, this common owl is the smallest owl of the year-round residents. Since these owls are so small, they must be on the lookout for predators, including other owls.
• Eastern Screech Owls live east of the Rocky Mountains.
• These owls have two color phases—red (rufous) and gray. Although both color phases can be found anywhere in their range, only about 1/3 of the owls will be rufous and are more common to the east.
• Their dinner menu includes insects, worms, crayfish, small birds and mammals, as well as the occasional bat. They will hide and store uneaten food in tree hollows for up to four days.
• Males claim and establish territories by calling and defending well suited locations.
• Male courtship rituals include bowing, hopping, snapping their beaks, and offering the female food.
Megascops_asio_Kerrville_1[1]• Eastern Screech Owls nest in cavities, often in trees or nest boxes where they lay 2-6 white eggs. The male will feed the female while she is brooding eggs.
• These mostly monogamous birds will stay together for life. Occasionally, a male may mate with a second female. Often times, the second female will evict the first female and lay her eggs within the existing nest then raise both clutches as her own.

 

 

Great Horned Owl
• Great Horned Owls can be found in a wide variety of habitats and are found throughout the United States.
• These powerful hunters seize and carry prey three times their own weight. However, they will take prey of all sizes, including insects, reptiles, amphibians, and sometimes carrion. They prefer birds, like coots and crows, and mammals, like skunks and rats.
• Once their talons are clenched, 28 pounds of force are required to pry them open.
• Great Horned Owls tend not to build nests; instead, they often commandeer stick nests built by other species like hawks, crows, herons, and squirrels.
Bubo_virginianus00[1]• Mated pairs are monogamous, and parents are very protective of the nests and young.
• They will hiss, scream, bill-snap and make guttural noises at perceived threats, and if the threat persists, they may strike with their feet.
• These owls call vigorously during the winter as they establish territory prior to egg-laying.
• Breeding starts in January and the average nest has 1-4 dull white, rough eggs.
• As with all owls, the female is larger than the male. Gender can often be determined by pitch, for example the male has a deeper call than the female.
• The Great Horned Owl call is a low hoot that sounds like they are saying: “who’s awake, me too.”
• Please visit this link to hear a recording: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_GreatHorned_Duet.mp3
Barred Owl1280px-Strix-varia-005[1]
• Barred Owls are found throughout the eastern half of the U.S., as well as in the northwestern states and Canada.
• Barred Owls are often pushed out of areas when Great Horned Owls appear since Great Horned Owls are a serious predatory threat.
• They prefer to live near water in mature mixed forests.
• Barred Owls are not picky eaters. They consume small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates, and even fish. Occasionally, they will temporally cache food.
Barred_Owl[2] (2)• Barred Owls nest in tree cavities where they lay 1-5 white, rough surfaced eggs.
• Parents are protective of the nest. They may strike intruders or perform distraction displays until the threat is resolved.
• These owls can live up to 24 years of age.
• Their calls are used by turkey hunters as it provokes a response from the turkeys.
• The Barred Owl’s raspy call sounds like they’re saying: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
• To hear a recording of the call, please visit: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_Barred_WhoCooks.mp3
Barn Owl800px-Tyto_alba_-British_Wildlife_Centre,_Surrey,_England-8a_(1)[1]
• Listen to their haunting scream like call by following this link: http://wildlifeofct.com/websitesounds/barn_owl_scream.mp3
• Barn Owls are found throughout most of the lower 48 states, as well as in open habitats in a few parts of southern Canada.
• Males attract mates with display flights; the male may hover in front of the female, dangling his feet, or showing off potential nest sites by flying in and out of cavities.
Owlets[1]• Once a pair bond is formed, a male feeds the female, and the couple is usually monogamous and bonded for life.
• Females have red hued spotted chests. Having more spots indicates a female has fewer parasites and is more attractive to a male. Experiments found that when spots were covered on a mated female, the male procured less food for the nestlings.
• These nocturnal birds prefer to nest in tree cavities, caves, and in abandoned buildings where they lay 2-18 dull white eggs.
• Populations have declined in Iowa, and they are considered an endangered species.
• They are excellent hunters as their keen asymmetrical ears and outstanding vision allow them to catch prey in complete darkness.
• Over the course of a year, a Barn Owl may eat:

Scanned to Kodak CD from 35 mm original slide.

– 1,407 mice
– 143 rats
– 7 bats
– 5 young rabbits
– 375 house sparrows
– 23 starlings
– 54 other birds
– 4 lizards
– 174 frogs
– 25 moths
– 52 crickets
   Owls establish territories throughout the winter, making this the perfect time of year to bundle up and go on a nighttime adventure. Pottawattamie County Conservation will host their annual Owl Prowl on February 5th, 2016. Please meet at the Loess Hills Lodge in Hitchcock Nature Center at 7:00 p.m. Cost is $4.00 per person and this program is weather permitting.*All images are common domain