International Festival of Owls in Houston, Minnesota

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.

Alice fell out of her nest early in life and broke her left wing which, despite the best efforts of wildlife rehabilitator Marge Gibson, didn’t heal well enough to allow for flight. Alice was raised in the Gibson’s home and is used as an education bird. As such she is comfortable around people and there is little doubt that Alice lives a privileged life. She commutes to work perched on the backseat of a car, eats her favorite food every day and enjoys the freedom of an entire house. She even likes the air conditioning set to her comfort level and lets her people know when it is not just right. Most owls, however, are not as fortunate as Alice and sometimes become victims of man’s encroachment on their habitat. The International Festival of Owls invites visitors to get to know these enigmatic creatures and the role they play in the environment.

The schedule for the weekend starts off on the Friday at 5:30 with some time for visitors to socialize before the banquet begins. After an introduction to Alice and the banquet meal, multi-award winning ornithologist Dr. C. Stuart Houston will deliver his keynote address “Adventures with 7,000 nestling Great Horned Owls: Eaters of Snowshoe Hares”. The evening finishes off with the World Owl Hall of Fame awards and an auction of owl-related items.

The rest of the weekend is packed with interesting activities and events. Children’s activities include owl face painting, being banded like an owl with a wristband, owl origami and other owl crafts. Carefully supervised owl nest box building is a popular activity and participants get to take their box home with instructions on correct placement to attract owls.

Owl pellet dissection is a surprisingly popular activity which is handled by author and radio show producer Laura Erickson. It is an interesting, educational and entertaining activity as participants attempt to identify what the owls have eaten by dissecting the pellet of indigestible matter that they throw up. Alice’s “mother” Marge Gibson will present live owl programs during which spectators get to interact with the owls. Other interesting activities include the Saturday night Owl Prowl and the Hooting Contest, as well as an owl photography session.

Owls are often misunderstood and are even sometimes looked upon as a bad omen. Visitors to the International Festival of Owls will gain a clear understanding of these fascinating birds of prey.