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Going Green: Owls at Soarin Hawk

Owls, while being beautiful creatures, are also vital to the ecosystem.

Posted: Sep 5, 2018 10:55 AM
Updated: Dec 23, 2019 12:15 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- Owls, while being beautiful creatures, are also vital to the ecosystem. 

Mary Koher is a volunteer at Soarin Hawk. She's put in enough time volunteering to handle the owls and be able to mimic their calls. 

Peabody, a Barred Owl, is one of the birds living in captivity there. Koher said Peabody is usually laid back, and may even fall asleep on her glove. 

Just like his friend Apollo, a Great Horned Owl, Peabody has been at Soarin Hawk since 2010. 

Koher said in captivity, the owls can live up to 20 years. In the wild, it's closer to 15 years.  

Peabody is partially blind, and Apollo can't fully extend his wing due to an injury that didn't properly heal. 

"The raptors, when we take them in, they have to have two good eyes, two good wings, two good feet in order for us to be able to release them," Koher said. 

Koher said while they're pretty to look at, owls are actually predators. In the wild, Apollo's snack of choice would be rats, squirrels, and even skunks. 

"Apollo, while he appears aggressive, he's not, he's actually very shy. What he's doing now, that's called Gular fluttering. And that's because he's either nervous or he's hot," Koher said. 

Another feature owls are known for is the ability to turn their heads seemingly all the way around. 

"They have more vertebrae in their neck. They have to be able to turn their head to see their prey, because their eyes don't move," Koher said. 

Once an owl does see their prey, they use their large talons, silent flight, and excellent hearing to hunt, and no, the tufts on a Great Horned Owl's head are not ears. 

"The orange part around him, that's his facial disks, and it works like a satellite dish. The sound hits that disk and it's funneled back to his ears, and they're asymmetrical," Koher said. 

Of course, Apollo couldn't make it through an interview without a bathroom break. 

"If you suspect a tree that's got an owl, look on the bark of the tree, and if you see what looks like white paint going down the tree, close your mouth and look up, and you might see an owl," Koher said. 

But if you don't see an owl, take a closer look. These birds like to blend in. And if you do see them, you can rest assured they're keeping the rodents away. 

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