Eurasian Eagle Owl
Hans-Hans is a species of owl known as the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo). Eurasian eagle owls are not native to North America, but they look very similar to their North American cousin, the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). Their name (eagle owl) refers to their large size; some females weigh up to nine pounds! Originally from Oregon, Hans has spent the majority of his life at the ABEF as an ambassador. Hans enjoys ripping up cardboard boxes, meeting new people and demonstrating owl flight for guests. Hans’ favorite foods are rabbit and quail.
Hans’ sponsors are: Natalie Jobbins, Emily Groves, Butterball Rodents, Tonye Mckinney
Eastern Screech Owl
Dylan- Dylan, the resident ABEF Eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) came from Auburn, Alabama in 2011. He is a rufous morph of Eastern Screech Owl, meaning he is reddish in coloration. We are unsure of Dylan’s age (it’s rude to ask), however we estimate he must be at least seven years old. In his free time, Dylan enjoys camouflaging himself in the year-round fall foliage of his home and peeking out of his nestbox at passersby. Though at times he likes to hide in his house, Dylan readily comes out with his handler to meet guests and teach them about owls. Dylan’s favorite foods include mice and quail.
Dylan’s sponsors are: Karen Daniels, Ruth Stubba, Cindy Kassub, James & Julia Montgomery, David Schroeder, Debbie Steward, Danny Jendral, Mackenzie Dryden, Mark Osiecki, Nancy McGrew, Julie Flagg
Hunter– Hunter the barred owl (Strix varia) comes from Alaska’s state capitol, Juneau. Hunter has lived at the ABEF since 2010 and we are unsure of his age. Hunter enjoys interacting with guests that walk by his home, target training for mice and feeling the wind beneath his feathers as he gazes out of the windows of his house. Hunter’s favorite foods include mice and quail.
Hunter’s sponsors are: Donna Eisenman, Linda Geise, Deborah Vasil
Barred Owl Natural History
Identification: Barred owls (Strix varia) are a relatively large North American forest owl. They have a stocky body with a short tail and broad wings. They can be identified by their round face, yellow beak and dark brown eyes. Their chest is cream colored with dark brown vertical bars. Their backside and tail is dark brown with whitish-tan horizontal bars. It is thought the plumage of the barred owl helps camouflage it in the dappled light of the forest. Most barred owls have feathers all the way down their legs and to their toes. Barred owls are more commonly heard than seen. Their characteristic hoot is known for sounding like, “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”. They are also well known for many other vocalizations and are known to be vocal at all times of the day and night.
Hunting and diet: Barred owls have been recorded hunting during the day, dawn, dusk, and at night. It has been more commonly observed for them to hunt at dusk and at night however. Like most owls, barred owls use their extraordinary hearing to locate and hunt their prey. They will perch high and listen for their prey and when they hear something, they will swoop down to acquire the prey item. Barred owls are known to be extremely opportunistic birds; they’ve been recorded taking small mammals, fish, reptiles, small birds, amphibians, bats and insects. Due to their varied diet, biologists have also observed barred owls catching their prey using a variety of hunting techniques ranging from wading in water to catch fish to jumping through snow to catch small mammals.
Size: As with most raptors, females are larger. These owls can range from 16-22 inches in length with a wingspan that averages between 39-44 inches. They can weigh between 1-2.5 pounds.
Habitat: Barred owls are found in dense forests in eastern North American and in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. They can be found in either coniferous or mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. These owls are associated with water and can be found living near wooded swamps and bogs as well as rivers, creeks and lakes near forested areas. On the east coast, barred owls prefer to nest in old growth tree stands, while in the Pacific Northwest, they will commonly nest in second, or mixed growth stands. In Alaska, barred owls are only found in the Southeast portion of the state.
Nesting and breeding: Little has been recorded about the specific interactions between male and female. Scientists have recorded the sounds of their courtship and described it as though the pair were screaming at each other. It is presumed that barred owls are monogamous and mate together until one mate dies. Barred owls do not build a nest. Instead they use a rock or tree cavity or an abandoned nest of a raven, crow or hawk. Nests are commonly reused year after year. Between one and five eggs are laid between March and April. These eggs are laid between one and three days apart. The eggs are incubated for about 30 days and once the chicks have hatched, they start leaving the nest/nesting territory after about 12 weeks.
Other facts: A barred owl’s most common predator is the great horned owl. Barred owls used to only be found in the eastern portion of the continent, however, they have expanded their range to the Pacific Northwest within the last 50 years. Scientists think this is due to loss of habitat in the East, and the barred owls uncanny ability to adapt. In the Pacific Northwest, the barred owl has displaced some Northern spotted owls, as the spotted owl is less aggressive and adaptive as the barred owl. Some barred owls have also mated with spotted owls, creating a “sparred owl”.
Most common problems: The main threat to barred owls is loss of habitat through clear-cutting and urban development. Pesticide positioning is a problem, especially in freshly planted clear-cuts. Finally, collision with vehicle is a common cause of death for these owls.
Great Horned Owl
Sarah– Sarah is a northwestern great horned owl (Buteo virginianus lagophonus). Her original home was Wasilla, Alaska but she has lived at the ABEF since 2010. Sarah enjoys flying around her home finding bits of rat, tearing apart phonebooks, and kong balls filled with fur. While Sarah isn’t a picky about her food, she particularly enjoys fresh rat and will always hop down for a leg of rabbit.
Sarah’s sponsors are: Dawn Engler & Amy Baird, Ruth Stubba, James Keck, Richard & Gerri Vollmer, Barbara Weaver
Great Horned Owl Natural History
Identification: Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) get their name from the distinctive feather tufts that are on their head. Great horned owls are one of the most common owls in North American and occupy almost every type of habitat. Because of this, there are 13 recorded sub-species and a vast amount of plumage variation. Some individuals can be so pale they almost look white and some individuals can be very dark. A good way to identify great horned owls are by their bright yellow eyes and their white throat patch. Great horned owls have stout and bulky bodies with relatively short tails and long, broad wings. They fly with stiff, steady movements and have been recorded reaching speeds of 40 m.p.h.
Hunting & diet: Great horned owls are mostly night time hunters though they have been recorded hunting during the day and at dusk. Their most commonly recorded hunting method is to perch on a high (about 300 feet) rocky crevice, tree, pole, tall bush, etc, near an open area (such as a meadow, field, bog) and glide down to catch their prey when they hear or see it. They have also been seen stalking prey on the ground. Again, because the great horned owl has such a large geographic range, their prey items also vary by region. In most parts of the continent, the majority of a great horned owl’s prey basis is mammals such as rabbits and hares, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, etc. However they are known to take birds (sometimes as large as a great blue heron) and occasionally reptiles, amphibians and insects. In some regions of the country, they are well known for taking skunks. In Alaska, snowshoe hares are the most common prey item.
Size: Great horned owls vary between 18-25 inches in height, with a wingspan between 40-57 inches and weighing between one and a half and five and a half pounds.
Habitat: These birds are adapted to most every habitat and climate up to the Arctic Circle in North America. They have been recorded living in old growth forests, second growth forests, riparian woodlands, prairies, savannas, tundras, cities and deserts. Most of the areas they are found in have some type of open country where they can hunt and an area (like a forest’s edge) where they can camouflage themselves.
Nesting and breeding: Great horned owls are thought to be monogamous. Though the pair does not stay together throughout the year, they are thought to stay in the same territory year round. Pair bonding begins with a male bowing and hooting to the female. He will begin bobbing his tail and rocking from side to side while calling to her. If interested, the female will call back and the two will “duet” together. Great horned owls do not build a nest, but will reuse a nest from another species (usually hawks or corvids), or lay their eggs in snags, buildings, rocky crevices, tree cavities, any type of ledge, and even on the ground. Some populations of great horned owls will line their nest site with mosses, lichens, feathers, fur or leaves, however other populations do not alter their nesting site at all. Egg laying can begin as early as December in the south and as late as March in the north. Between one and four eggs are laid between one and seven days apart. Only the female will incubate the eggs. Owls will begin leaving the nest about six weeks from hatching, but will stay in their parents territory (sometimes begging for food) for up to five months after they have left the nest.
Other facts: Great horned owls are often referred to as the “tiger of the sky” because of their power and ability to surprise prey. Predator-prey population studies in Kulane National Park in Yukon Territory, Canada suggests that great horned owls are more likely to cause the snowshoe hare population to fall rather than Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) or red fox (Vulpes vulpes). One nest site in Kluane had a dozen snowshoe hares stored in it. Some populations of great horned owls have also been found to be indirect seed distributors through eating rodents. Great horned owls are well known for taking other raptors such as barred owls, spotted owls, peregrine falcons, and nestling eagles. If a great horned owl is spotted by smaller birds (such as ravens, crows and song birds) they will be harassed by large populations of these small birds. Although great horned owls are known to be highly territorial (especially females) they are known to co-exist in the same territories as red-tailed hawks (which are typically thought of as their daytime counterpart)
Most common problems: Common causes of injury or death for great horned owls include gunshot, rodenticide (rat/mouse) poisoning, electrocution, leg hold traps, collision with vehicle. Other causes of injury include porcupine quills, and blindness from skunk spray.