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Owls


There are over 217 species of owls in the world! North America has about 22 species of owls . Large mammals such as bears, White-tailed deer, moose and coyotes roam our state. Smaller Michigan mammals include flying squirrels, mice and bats.

All owls:

  • Are vertebrates. This means they have a backbone or spine.
  • Are “endothermic” or warm-blooded. Endothermic animals can regulate their body temperature, allowing them to live in a variety of habitats on Earth.
  • Are covered with soft, soundless feathers allowing the owls to sneak up on their prey.
  • Regurgitate pellets containing hair, exoskeletons and bones of their prey.

About Baby and Bart

Baby (pictured left) came to Blandford in 2011. She was abandoned by her parents due to her having juvenile cataracts in both eyes.  While her cataracts have since cleared up, she still does not have 100% vision and has also become dependent upon humans to take care of her. Baby would not be able to survive in the wild.

Black Bart (pictured right) was brought to Blandford Nature Center after being hit by a car in Marne, MI in 2010. Due to the car accident he is blind in his right eye, and has permanent brain damage. With these injuries he is unable to hunt and survive in the wild.

Diet

The Barred Owl is a “sit and wait” predator. They will perch on a tree branch and scan the forest understory for any movement of prey.  In Michigan, the preferred food choice is deer mice, but they also eat voles, squirrels, and the occasional amphibian or small bird.

Habitat

The Barred Owl prefers densely forested areas with large trees for nesting.  They live mostly on the eastern side of the United States and Canada.  The Barred Owl can live in a variety of habitats as long as there are enough trees and open areas for hunting.

Interesting Facts

  • Barred Owls help keep nocturnal small mammal populations in check.
  • The Barred Owl gets its name from the horizontal banding or “barring” pattern around the neck and upper breast area with vertical barring found below.
  • The greatest predator of Barred Owls is the Great Horned Owl!

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Barred Owls in Michigan:

This species is a year-round resident in Michigan.

Threats to Wild Barred Owls:

Currently, there are no threats to Barred Owl populations.  Their numbers have actually been increasing.

About Katherine

Katherine was found on the Nature Center’s east loop trail in 1991 suffering from a fractured left wing.  The wing did not heal properly, leaving her unable to catch prey or escape predators. Great Horned Owls mate for life, and every once in a while Katherine’s mate from the wild will visit and bring her gifts in the form of small rodents!

Diet

Great Horned Owls are the deadliest hunters in the owl family, hunting from perches near open areas. They are nocturnal, but will sometimes hunt at dusk or during the day in the winter. They eat mainly small mammals (including skunks), as well as birds, snakes, amphibians, fish and other species of owls!

Habitat

Great Horned Owls prefer forests with clearings, croplands, woodlots, meadows, riparian woodlands, and the wooded areas around suburban parks, landfills, and town dumps.

Interesting Facts

  • Like most owls, Great Horned Owls help keep nocturnal small mammal populations in check.
  • The Great Horned Owl is the only animal known that regularly eats skunks!

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Great Horned Owls in Michigan:

This species is a common year-round resident of Michigan.

Threats to Wild Great Horned Owls:

There are currently no threats to this species.

Luna tag

About Luna

On July 4, 2011, this female Barn Owl was found in Clarkston, Washington with an injured wing that impaired her flight. Later in August of 2012 she was transferred to Blandford.

Diet

The majority of the Barn Owl’s diet is small mammals however they will take fish, reptiles, other birds, and some insects.

Habitat

This species prefer open lowlands with some trees including farmlands, plantations, and various forest types.

Interesting Facts

  • Barn Owls don’t hoot the way most other owls do; you can listen for their harsh screeches at night.
  • Barn Owl females are somewhat showier than males. Females will have a more reddish and more heavily spotted chest. The spots may indicate the quality of the female. Heavily spotted females get fewer parasitic flies and may be more resistant to parasites and diseases. The spots may also stimulate the male to help more at the nest. In an experiment where some females’ spots were removed, their mates fed their nestlings less often than for females whose spots were left alone.

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Barn Owls in Michigan The Barn Owl is currently a state endangered species that is legally protected in Michigan.  According to some wildlife biologists, Barn Owls are extirpated from Michigan, meaning they are extinct from the Michigan region.

Threats to Wild Barn Owls:

Barn owls have become extremely rare in Michigan as farming practices have changed and abandoned buildings have become fewer and farther between. Pesticide and rat poisoning have also taken their toll on the Barn owl population.

How Can We Help

  • Use quick-kill traps instead of rat poison. Not only will this help Barn Owls and other wildlife, but this could also prevent a tragic accident from happening with small children and pets.
  • Help with the monitoring of Barn Owl populations by reporting any sightings to Michigan Natural Features Inventory at 517-373-1552.

Xena tag

About Xena

A veterinary clinic in Jenison brought Xena to Blandford Nature Center in 1998.  She had been hit by a car, and fractured her right wing so badly that it had to be amputated. With only one wing, she would not be able hunt or escape predators in the wild.

Diet

The Short-eared Owl hunts both in the day and at night, quietly flying low to the ground as they look for any movement of prey items. Their diet consists of voles, mice, birds and other small mammals.

Habitat

This species prefers open areas with lowland vegetation such as prairies, marshes, meadows and bogs.

Interesting Facts

  • Short-eared Owls play a special role in the ecosystem by helping manage small rodent populations.
  • The Short-eared Owl is one of only 2 North American owl species that nests on the ground.

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Short-Eared Owls in Michigan:

The Short-eared Owl is currently a state endangered species that is legally protected in Michigan.  Their endangered status is due to loss of habitat caused by human development and clearing of wetlands.

Threats to Wild Short-Eared Owls:

These owls are among the rarest of owl species found in Michigan due to habitat loss.

How Can We Help:

  • Help with the conservation and of wetlands.
  • Help with the monitoring of Short-Eared Owl populations by reporting any sightings to Michigan Natural Features Inventory at 517-373-1552.

burt tag

About Burt

Burt was hit by a car in Grant, MI and brought in to Blandford Nature Center in 2008. The accident caused permanent damage to his left wing.  He can hardly fly and would not be able to survive on his own.

Diet

These owls eat mainly voles, deer mice and other small nocturnal mammals.  Long-eared Owls also eat small birds, reptiles and amphibians.  They tend to catch their prey in their talons while in flight.

Habitat

Long-eared Owls prefer conifer forests, but will also nest in deciduous trees.  They also require open grassy areas nearby with lots of prey items for hunting.  Long-eared owls use abandoned nests or dense vegetation as nest sites.

Interesting Facts

  • Long-eared Owls help keep small rodent populations in check.
  • During the winter these owls roost together in groups of 10-20 in wooded areas.
  • Long-eared Owls do not actually have long ears on top of their heads; those are just tufts of feathers. Their actual ears are located under the feathers for protection.

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Long-Eared Owls in Michigan Long-eared Owls are a state threatened species. Any sightings should be reported to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory at 517-373-1552. Threats to Wild Long-Eared Owls 

  • Loss of hunting habitats such as old fields and open lands to urbanization.
  • Destruction of forest patches.

How Can We Help 

  • Help with the planting of pine plantations near open, grassy foraging areas.
  • Help monitor Long-eared Owl populations by reporting any sightings to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory at 517-373-1552.

 

bean tag

About Mr. Bean

Our male Northern Saw-whet Owl was brought into Blandford Nature Center in 2009. He had flown into a window at the Caledonia High School, resulting in permanent soft tissue damage to his left wing.  Mr. Bean can hardly fly, making it impossible for him to hunt for food and escape predators in the wild.

Diet

They mainly eat small rodents, like deer mice, but they will eat young chipmunks and baby squirrels. They eat insects often during the summer, and will occasionally eat small birds that are awake at night.

Habitat

Northern Saw-whet Owls inhabit coniferous and deciduous forests. Northern Saw-whet Owls nest in old woodpecker cavities, usually of the larger species such as the Pileated Woodpeckers or Northern Flickers, and they can nest in natural cavities. They will also use nest boxes.

Interesting Facts

  • Saw-whet Owls help to keep populations of Woodland Deer Mice in check.
  • During the winter, Saw-whet Owls will actually catch extra food and hang it in trees to freeze for a later day when food is scarce.  When they are ready to eat the frozen food, they sit on it until it is thawed and then dig in!
  • The Saw-whet Owl is the smallest owl in Eastern America.

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Saw-Whet Owls in Michigan:

Saw-whet owls are a common species in Michigan, but are not often seen due to their secretive nature.

Threats to Wild Saw-Whet Owls:

Currently, there are no known threats to this species.  

whoo tag

About Dr. Whoo

Dr. Whoo came to us in 2012 after he was cut down out of a tree by a chainsaw. He became a permanent resident in 2013 and serves as an animal ambassador reminding folks to check trees, especially dead ones, for wildlife before cutting. After being cut down from a tree, the Eastern Screech owl came to Blandford where staff found that two of his toes had been amputated and part of his wing had been severed. Due to these injuries, Dr. Whoo would never be able to sustain flight to escape predators and would  find it difficult to capture prey with two toes missing.

Diet

Their diet includes a wide variety of prey items.  They eat large insects, such as moths, crayfish, earthworms, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and small birds.

Habitat

Eastern Screech Owls can live in just about any habitat below 1500 meters of elevation.

Interesting Facts

  • Eastern Screech Owls help keep small rodent populations in check.
  • Most Screech Owls mate for life.
  • Unlike other owls, this species has symmetrical ears, which may suggest that they have superior vision and hearing.

Species Conservation and Management

Status of Eastern Screech Owls in Michigan:

The Eastern Screech Owl can be found in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula throughout the year.

Threats to Wild Eastern Screech Owls:

There are currently no serious threats to this species.