Last post, we learned about owl anatomy, breeding and what to do if you find an owl chick. This week, let’s learn about the awesome owls in our communities. (Please see the images of each species for a link to hear a sample of their calls.)
In Illinois, you can find the Barred, Barn, Eastern Screech, Long-eared, Short-eared, Great Horned, Northern Saw Whet and seasonally the Snowy Owl (1). These can also be seen in parts of Missouri (2) and Iowa.
In Northwest Iowa, you can also find the Burrowing Owl (3). The Barn (4) and Short-eared Owls (5) are sadly endangered and the Long-Eared Owl (6) is threatened in Iowa. The biggest threat to all owls is habitat destruction. Development, logging, and agriculture destroy critical hunting and breeding habitats. For some species, nest boxes can be put up to help compensate for the habitat loss. Another threat faced by owls is our use of pesticides that taint their prey. In some areas around the world, they are even seen as bad omens and killed (7). Many of these threats can be decreased through education and conservation efforts, and you can be a part of those efforts.
If you want to help owls, consider joining MOON (Monitoring of Owls and Nightjars). MOON is a volunteer based program where participants monitor specific 9 mile long/10 stop routes for owls and nightjars from the months of June to August. Monitoring is a critical part of any conservation plan. It helps to estimate species distributions, migrations, and population trends. The data collected can then be used to educate conservationists and policy makers. To learn more visit wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/research/moon and/or read this informative PDF, wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/files/2813/9396/4240/MOONprotocol_2014.pdf.
One of MOON’s members is Dr. Angelo Capparella, an Associate Professor of Zoology in the Illinois State University School of Biological Sciences. He will be our first guest author and will be writing the next post on the Barn Owl Box Placement Project in coordination with the Illinois’s state Barn Owl Recovery plan.
If you just can’t get enough owls, you can participate in guided owl tours that are often put on by non-for-profits or conservation groups. World Bird Sanctuary hosts Owl Prowl from November to February. Check it out at http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org. You can also use Google to find one near your area.
You can encourage them to nest near you or in your area by putting up owl boxes. Be sure to build keeping the species and protection from predators in mind. See following websites:
Owl Nest Box Information
If you are interested in watching a pair of owls raise their chicks, there are several nest camera live feeds available on the Internet. I personally enjoy watching the Eastern Screech Owl pair, Hoot n Annie, from the Nature Conservancy website. The table below has links to nest cameras.
1 “A Pictoral Guide to Illinois Raptors.” Field Identification Guide Directory Birds of Prey. Illinois Raptor Center. Web. 20 Oct. 2014 <http://www.illinoisraptorcenter.org/guidecover.html>.
2 “Missouri’s Owls.” Missouri’s Fish, Forests and Wildlife. Missouri Department of Conservation. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/common-plants-and-animals/birds/missouris-owls>.
3 “Iowa Checklist.” Iowa Birds and Birding. Iowa Ornithologists’ Union. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.iowabirds.org/Checklists>.
4 “Barn Owls by US States.” Barn Owl Box Company. Barn Owl Box Company. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.barnowlbox.com/barn-owls-by-state>.
5 “Illinois Threatened/Endangered Species — 2001.” Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://dnr.state.il.us/education/ilbiodiversitybasics/endangered species list.pdf>.
6 “ENDANGERED AND THREATENED PLANT AND ANIMAL SPECIES.” Natural Resource Commission, 9 Sept. 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/ACO/chapter/571.77.pdf>.
7 Konig, Claus, Friedhelm Weick, and An-Hendrick Becking. “Owls: An Overview.” Owls of the World. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2008. 18-39.