Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Symbiosis of Raptors

(Sadly, not the extinct ones)

My parents went to a raptor shelter (raptors as in birds of prey, not dinosaurs), and learned a lot about the great horned owl, which is native to Indiana. I will distill the most interesting tidbits for you here:
  • Great horned owls are the strongest of raptors. Although they feed mainly on mice, if a great horned owl and a bald eagle got in a rumble, the owl would win.
  • The horned owl's claws are strong enough to grip the carcass of a baby deer, and they fly with enough force to lift it and bring it to nearby rocks, or other elevated areas, where it is safe enough for them to eat out of immediate reach of bigger, badder predators (coyotes, etc. Because sadly, the horned owl can't take on those beasts).
  • Great horned owls hunt by night, and since most falcons hunt by day, apparently if horned owls and falcons share a territory, they will also share a nest and help in raising each other's young. E.g., when the falcons go out by day to hunt, the owls will stay behind and incubate both their and the falcon's eggs, and the falcons will do the same for the owls when they go out to hunt. They will also watch over each other's young after the eggs have hatched by the same system.
  • Baby horned owls eat an average of ten field mice per feeding.
  • You can specially craft birdhouses for horned owels—they need to be large and open at two ends to allow enough room for the adult owls to travel through, and they need to be placed at the tops of tall, thick trees (coniferous work best!), but when the horned owls find them, they will roost there (it also helps if you live near open fields for the owls to hunt in).
  • And, on a completely unprofessional, uneducated note, I think Great Horned Owls are the sassiest looking of all owls.
If you happen to be an Indiana native like me, you should check out the Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab in Ft. Wayne! You can take tours and see birds!