Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is one of two groups of owls. It belongs to the barn owl family Tytonidae and is a fairly common sight in rural areas across the globe. The Barn Owl may be found in any country except Antartica, although it may vary in appearance in certain instances such as the Tyto alba alba of western Europe which has a pure white underbelly or the Tyto alba guttata of central Europe which has an orange underbelly. These two variations are classified as subspecies and most Barn Owls have a mixture of grey and ochre on their underparts.

Barn Owls are generally pale in appearance and have long wings and fairly long legs. Their bodies measure between 33-39 cm in length and they have an average wingspan of 80-95 cm. They prefer open country, such as farmland or the edges of woods where they can easily spot their prey from the air. They generally hunt in the early twilight or at night and are fairly sedentary for the rest of the time. They often feed on voles, frogs, rats, shrews, moles, mice and insects. As they feed on so many pests, they are considered to be economically valuable birds and their presence is generally welcomed by farmers who may set up nesting sites for the birds to entice them to nest on the property. The Barn Owl is also known by several other names such as the ‘church owl’, ‘golden owl’, ‘stone owl’ and ‘rat owl’.

This beautiful, heart-faced bird has few natural predators, although they have been known to be preyed upon by bigger owls on occasion. Barn Owls themselves will prey on smaller birds if other food is scarce. They can emit a notable shrill scream which can be piercing at close range. They also hiss if nervous but do not make the ‘tu-whit to-whoo’ sound commonly associated with owls. If a Barn Owl is captured or cornered, it will flip itself on its back and use it’s sharply-taloned feet in defence. These incredible birds are also known for their soundless flight and excellent vision – especially at night.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Arctic is a harsh environment and most birds that travel to this harsh environment do so in summer to breed, and then migrate back home. The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), Ptarmigan and the snow bunting are some of the few arctic birds that will live there all year round on the snowy tundra. It is not often that the snowy owl will move away from the arctic unless there is a particularly bad winter and their food is scarce. In that case they will leave the arctic and winter in northern Greenland, northern Eurasia, Canadian islands, Wrangel Islands and in North America.

Their name comes from their coloring, which is basically pure white when they are fully grown adults but will change in the summer to a brown with dark stripes and spots. Due to the icy cold environment that they stay in, the birds’ feet have extra thick pads and are covered with feathers to keep them warm. They are one of the largest owl species standing up to 27 inches high, with a wingspan of 45 to 60 inches.

Like other species of owls the Snowy owl has amazing day and night vision, allowing them to see their prey high up in the sky, from where they will swoop down silently and capture it. When the owl catches its prey it will either swallow it whole or it will tear it into big pieces and swallow. They eat hares, voles, lemmings and shrews and will sometimes eat small birds. During spring they will add eggs from swans and waterfowl to their diet.

When the female Snowy owl makes a nest she will stay on the 8 to 10 eggs while the male owl goes out to hunt for food for the both of them as well as protecting her from any danger. Once the owlets are born both the female and male will go out to search for food and at eight weeks of age the owlets will be ready to leave home. It is important that the owlets become independent quickly because the summer months are short and if they cannot look after themselves they will not survive the long icy cold winters.

Ornithologist Pair Break Record

November 4, 2008 by  
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For many bird lovers it seems like the sort of thing dreams are made of – giving up everything to enjoy a year spotting some of the most rare birds in some of the most exotic locations around the globe. Welsh ornithologists Alan Davies and Ruth Miller have done just that. They’ve sold their home and belongings, quit their jobs and set off to break the bird-spotting world record.

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Israel Chooses National Bird

June 2, 2008 by  
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The nation of Israel has finally chosen their national bird. After months of selecting and voting, it would seem that the Hoopoe had the most votes. This pretty little bird managed to scoop a massive 35% of the votes, giving it the prestige of becoming the new symbol of Israel.

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International Festival of Owls in Houston, Minnesota

February 4, 2008 by  
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The International Festival of Owls came about as a result of the popularity of Alice, a Great Horned Owl. Alice is a well-known and much-loved resident at the Houston Nature Center in Houston, Minnesota. The Festival of Owls started out as a fun event celebrating Alice’s “hatch-day”. The festival was a huge success and soon developed into an international event. The 6th annual International Festival of Owls is set to take place on the weekend of 29 February to 2 March 2008 and has a host of activities lined up to educate and entertain each member of the family.

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