Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweetheart of an Owl

Greg Swick of Greater Ozarks Audubon Society (GOAS) sent out this picture and shared the story with me.
Click to Enlarge
"Attached is a picture of a new species of owl, Asio valentinus?  We found it near Lockwood today.  Of course, it face is heart-shaped, like many owls, but the damaged pupil of his right eye is also heart-shaped.  Happy Valentine's Day, all"  Click on the picture
This sweetheart is actually a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), one of the many which migrate to Missouri in the winter to take advantage of the weather and hunting on the open grasslands.  I suspect they were disappointed with the recent accommodations which are more ski vacation than snow-bird stop.

Short-eared Owls have one of the largest geographic ranges of any bird, inhabiting all continents except Antarctica and Australia.  They even breed in Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Galapagos.  Their southward migration is driven as much by the search for voles and other rodents as by weather.  In some states they are listed as threatened as suitable habitat disappears.

According to this MDC article, they favor open grasslands, and especially native prairie.  Since they roost on the ground or in low bushes, their nest sites are easily disturbed by haying or grazing.  This may be why they no longer nest in Missouri.

The Asio genus of owls have "ears" sticking up which are actually tufts of feathers.  Short-eared Owl's tufts only show when they are being defensive.  Greg's owl may be showing that he is ready to defend his Valentine.

Note: Original picture- No Photoshop
You can hear its raspy "bark" at Cornell Lab.
Learn more about our birds with GOAS.

1 comment:

  1. "Short-eared Owl's tufts only show when they are being defensive."

    Wow! I learn something new today because of this post. People too are like this,(showing peculiar behavior) when they want to protect someone or even themselves. :)

    Thanks for the share,
    Cathy@cheap digitizing