Floridian Nature

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Florida Birds: Owls
burrowing owls in FloridaBurrowing Owl- The burrowing owl is a pint-sized bird that lives in open, treeless areas. The burrowing owl spends most of its time on the ground, where its sandy brown plumage provides camouflage from potential predators. One of Florida's smallest owls, it averages nine inches in height with a wingspan of 21 inches. The burrowing owl lacks the ear tufts of the more familiar woodland owls. Bright yellow eyes and a white chin accent the face. Unusually long legs provide additional height for a better view from its typical ground-level perch. The Florida burrowing owl occurs throughout the state although its distribution is considered local and spotty. Burrowing owls inhabit open native prairies and cleared areas that offer short groundcover including pastures, agricultural fields, golf courses, airports, and vacant lots in residential areas. Burrowing owls live as single breeding pairs or in loose colonies consisting of two or more families. Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are active during both day and night. During the day, they are usually seen standing erect at the mouth of the burrow or on a nearby post. When disturbed, the owl bobs in agitation and utters a chattering or clucking call. In flight, burrowing owls typically undulate as if they are flying an invisible obstacle course. They also can hover in midair, a technique effective for capturing food. Burrowing owls mainly eat insects, especially grasshoppers and beetles.

Florida barn owlBarn Owl- The barn owl (Tyto alba) is found throughout the state of Florida and inhabits hardwood and tropical hammocks, urban areas with abundant palms and large hardwoods, and manmade structures such as silos, barns, and deserted buildings.  Barn owls forage voraciously for rodents in open areas such as prairies, pastures, fields, and sparsely wooded areas. Barn owls in Florida breed from March through July and nest in secluded places like caves, barns, tree cavities, and large bird houses.  They build no actual nest and lay from 3-11 (most commonly 5-7) white or buff-white eggs. Many people attract barn owls by erecting nest boxes in an effort to control local rodent populations



screech owlCommon Screech Owl- The Eastern Screech Owl is a small, nocturnal, woodland Owl. There are two color morphs, a gray phase and a reddish-brown phase. The Eastern Screech-Owl flies fairly rapidly with a steady wingbeat (about 5 strokes/second). They rarely glide or hover, but may fly with erratic movements, when maneuvering through wooded areas. Their wings are broad and the head is held tucked in giving the bird a stubby appearance when flying. When threatened, an Eastern Screech Owl will stretch its body and tighten its feathers in order to look like a branch stub to avoid detection, but will take flight when it knows it has been detected. In open roosts, gray-phase birds tend to roost next to a tree trunk, whereas red-phase birds tend to roost in outer foliage, possibly because of thermal requirements.

Florida Barred OwlsBarred Owl- The Barred Owl is a medium-sized gray-brown Owl streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly. They are round-headed with a whitish/brown facial disk with dark brown trim. The eyes are brown, and the beak is yellow and almost covered by feathers. They have a long tail. There is no difference in plumage between males and the larger females. A very opportunistic hunter, a Barred Owl can sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days. A Barred Owl will use a perch, from where it dives upon its prey - meadow voles are its main prey, followed by shrews and deer mice. Other mammals include rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. Birds are taken occasionally, including woodpeckers, grouse, quail, jays, blackbirds, and pigeons. They also eats small fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crayfish, scorpions, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Birds are taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts, because they cannot catch birds on the wing. They will also swoop down to the water's edge to catch frogs, other amphibians, and occasionally fish. Barred Owls are attracted to campfires and lights where they forage for large insects. Prey is usually devoured on the spot.

great horned owlGreat Horned Owl- The Great horned owl has a wide range and habitat, but are always a permanent resident of their chosen territory. There are almost no predators to the adult Great Horned Owl, however they are at times killed in fights with eagles, snowy owls and many times other great horns, which does end in cannibalism at times. The Great Horned Owl will sit at night, on a high tree or perch, waiting for a prey animal and then swoop down on it, and usually do not miss their strike. Great horned owl prey will include rats, squirrels, mice, moles, voles, marmots, skunks, shrews, bats, weasels, gerbils and even porcupines. The Great Horned Owl has incredible hearing and excellent vision in very low light. Their hearing is much better so far as depth perception than that of a human.. This is possible because their ears are not placed at the same elevation on their heads but rather are typically one, a bit higher than the other. One interesting fact about Great Horned owls is that their eyes are not movable. Rather than turning the eye in its socket the owl must turn its head instead. Great Horned Owls are some of the earliest-breeders in North America, many times breeding in mid to late January or early February. They select their mates in December and are often heard calling to each other.
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