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Barn Owls Making A Comeback In WNY | News

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Barn Owls Making A Comeback In WNY

EAST AURORA, NY - Throughout history, owls have been one of nature's most misunderstood creatures. Both reviled and revered, the owl has been symbolic of both wisdom and ill omen. In some cultures, the owl represented wisdom and helpfulness, even having the power of prophecy. But in others, the owl took on a more sinister nature, a creature of the night, thought to be a harbinger of evil. One species in particular, the Barn Owl, has bred many a dark fear.

Laurel Ward, Wildlife Educator At Hawk Creek Wildlife Center, tells 2 The Outdoors "These guys are known as the "Ghost Owl",and it's because they are primarily nocturnal, that's when their food is out,that , and they make a horrible sound."

Kimberly May, Hawk Creek's Director Of Developments adds  "They have these cold black eyes, and this glowing coloration in the moonlight. Put these all together, and you can see how society might have seen them as a ghost, or something of evil."



Although today owls still retain a small sense of mystery, we now understand the important role they play in the environment. In Western New York, the Barn Owl had almost completely disappeared by the early 90's, due to habitat loss and the pesticide DDT. That sad situation prompted one local wildlife rehabilitator to take action.

May says "A survey was actually done, and no Barn Owl species was found in the area. Maybe some nest remains, but no actual live Barn Owls.This inspired our founder,Loretta Jones to start the Barn Owl breeding project in 1994."

Ward continues "Since 1994 when she started the program,we've released over 220 Barn Owls, so it's been a big help to the population."

So what makes the Barn Owl such an important contributor to the environment ? Pound for pound, Barn Owls consume more rodents than possibly any other creature.



"It is the flying mouse trap!" says May. "One Barn Owl raising a family can eat as many mice as ten house cats . They certainly do their part, when you give them the opportunity to, to reduce rodent populations,and rodents as we know can spread disease,cause crop damage,so this is your natural rodent control right here."

The owl's unique physiology make it one of the planet's most effective predators. Owl vision may be one of the most acute, and extra vertebrae in the neck allows the owl to rotate it's head almost completely, giving it amazing peripheral vision. These nocturnal hunters are also silent in flight, and their incredible sense of hearing allows them to track prey in near total darkness...

Ward describes them... "Underneath the facial feathers they've got some skin flaps that cover where their ears are,and the way that their face is shaped,it's like a satellite dish catching sound and distributing it to the ears,so he can figure out exactly where that noise is coming from."

"They're pretty phenomenal hunters, they can almost hunt on their hearing alone."

Hawk Creek gives the public a couple of chances each year to experience the thrill of releasing Barn Owls into the wild. Getting people involved fosters a unique connection to the earth, and helps further the belief that an individual can make a difference in protecting the planet we so often take for granted...

Says Ward " It's giving back to the community essentially...they give us the gift of being able to afford and fund this place,and so we're giving the gift back,we're giving them the chance to see what they've helped do."

May adds " They say one raindrop raises the sea,and so every barn owl we release into the skies helps to strengthen that population,and helps preserve our natural heritage in Western New York."

Hawk Creek will offer the public two more chances to release Barn Owls into the wild. They hold a Wildlife and Renaissance Festival on July 16th, 17th, 23rd and 24th. For more information go to www.hawkcreek.org




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