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Owl Quiz II: Another test of your owl knowledge 

click to enlarge Give a hoot.
  • Give a hoot.
Give a hoot.
If you are wondering what happened to the second part of our "little" Owl Quiz, the answer is it got too big. So, if you still want to have a good time with the quiz, you'll have to wait until my website, www.northwestnaturalist is up and running, which should be in about a week.

In the meantime, let's discuss six of the remaining eight, one of them a newcomer, the barred owl. This pugnacious alien wandered into the Northwest from eastern areas of Canada and the U.S. It's one of the owls I grew up with, the other being the great horned - which I had to eat when my grandfather said, "Whatever you shoot, Jimmy, you eat."

Barred owls, as far as I know, are the only owl in North America with an eight-note call. The northern spotted owl comes close, because they are genetically and physically very similar, but once you've heard them both, there is no question whooo-is-whooo-t-whooo.

In fact, they are so close genetically that they can also interbreed, the result being the sparred owl. It gets worse, as the barred owl is very aggressive while the spotted owl is laid back, resulting in a good chance it may lead to serious problems for the spotted owl. Another look-alike in the world of owls are the flammulated owls that nest in old woodpecker cavities in lodgepole pines on the slopes of Newberry. Except for eye color and diet, it's almost a dead ringer for the western screech owl. However, "flams" unlike their look-a-like cousin the screech, possess black eyes, and feed on insects, especially moths, crickets and flightless grasshoppers. The only time you can find them here is in spring and summer; they spend their winters in Panama like true snowbirds.

The western screech owl comes in brown and gray, and they really don't screech, but warble while calling. Like larger owls, they also devour small rodents whenever they can, but also eat frogs, birds, insects and snakes. In the world of nature, there is no problem with one owl eating another owl, which puts the screech in jeopardy when a great horned is on the prowl.

Another small owl that we don't see very often - except in winter - is the saw-whet owl. These little guys nest in abandoned woodpecker cavities in the boreal forests of the Northwest. They come by their common name because early bird namers thought the owl's call was like a logger "whetting" - as in sharpening - a saw.

Burrowing owls are in trouble in Oregon. The historical nesting burrows near Brothers and around Malheur are vacant, with just a few occupying old badger and coyote dens in northern Lake County and near Boardman. I personally witnessed one of the reasons why they are on the decline: shooters using them for target practice. The owls are very curious birds and stand around their burrows wondering what that funny-looking animal is out there, only to discover the answer too late.

Great gray owls are the largest owls in North America. Although they appear bigger than the great horned; they are actually smaller in body size. Great grays are owls of the boreal regions and need a lot of feathers to keep warm hence their large appearance. Tom Rodhouse of Bend can testify great grays are very protective of their young. While we were banding nestlings in the Sycan Marsh country, he about got his head knocked off by a momma great gray that took exception with his behavior toward her babies.

The great gray, like the spotted owl has also run afoul of current forest management policies. Spotted owls require large areas of old-growth forests for cover to nest and make a living; great grays need what the fire people call, "ladder fuels." That's a "jack-straw" under story with small, dead trees leaning against each other and larger trees. Baby great grays grow so rapidly in their tiny nest that they fall, (or are pushed) out and flutter to the forest floor. If those "ladder fuels" are available, the babe walks up the leaners to a safe place off the forest floor where the parents feed it. Without that jackstraw under story, nestling owls have little chance of survival. If you want to sit by the fire and jaw about owls, send me an email:


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