Photo by Dan Tallman
Owls are fast becoming one of the most popular types of birds. However, unlike most other admired birds that are known for being colorful, quick, or vocal, perhaps owls’ most celebrated characteristic is their aura of mystery. Almost ghost-like as they swoop through the dark, these silent and deadly hunters have such haunting calls that they can produce goose bumps that have nothing to do the with the negative wind chill. Given their general ‘shadowy’ countenance, perhaps its no wonder that the Arboretum’s most established pair of Great Horned Owls live in a cemetery across the street from the Upper Arb!
Great Horned Owls are monogamous and typically return every year to the same nest site where they breed during late January through early February. During this time they can be heard hooting together in a duet at twilight and sometimes throughout the night. Unlike many birds that fly south for the winter, Great Horned Owls are well equipped to deal with the sub-zero temperatures as they are covered from head to toe with what is literally and figuratively a down ‘jacket’. Additionally armed with nocturnal vision and hypersensitive hearing, the owls can detect prey (mice, voles, shrews and etc.) hiding under the snow, making them comfortable winter residents of the Arboretum.
Want to learn more? Come on the Owl Walk with the Student Naturalists next Friday (2/1/13) at 4pm to listen and look for the Cemetery Owls! The walk will depart from in front of the Rec Center, by the Arb Kiosk. If the weather is dangerously cold the group leaders may bring the group to the Arb office to dissect owl pellets, look at owl feathers and practice owl calls!
-Emily Buckner ‘15 for the Cole Student Naturalists