The Owl Prowl in Siouxland, Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

24 Feb

Hoot. Hoot, hoot, hoot. Cue the wind, hear the leaves rustling in the tress as visitors to Sioxland’s Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center head out for an evening stroll along a trail to hear, if not see, some of the Center’s nocturnal friends, particularly the Owl.

” We’re here at the Dorothy Pecaut Center for a program called the Owl Prowl. And we’re just here to learn the types of owls that live in our area. What they sound like. What they look like. A little bit about them and then we’ll see if we can find some out on our trails,” so said Woodbury County naturalist Therea Kruid, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2013 at the Nature Center.

Kruid explained that around the Center and in Stone State Park that borders the Center she has seen or heard three specific types of owls, the screech owl,  the barred owl and the great horned owl. Even though there are other types of owls, these three are the predominate ones people will find in the area.

She said that owls’ eyes are large, for hunting nocturnally, and by comparison that if people had eyes like owls, they would be the size of tennis balls.

“Most birds have the really stiff edges to their feathers and then owls have really soft frayed edges, so that it kind of quiets the sound a little bit, (while they’re flying), she explained. “So quiet, sometimes you just don’t even know that they’re there.”

Kruid said she remembers sitting around a campfire one evening and an owl flew just overhead of the group she was with and no one heard it or even knew it was there until it was right over head.The group hiked in darkness for about an hour, periodically stopping along a trail in the wooded area while Kruid played different owl calls from an electronic device she had. Previously she said owls would respond to the calls, especially during mating season. But even though some people said they heard one owl call in return to the electronic call, no one saw one or heard one. The naturalist also explained that owls eat all sorts of things. Mostly rodents and insects, and said that the screech owl loves moths and June bugs. She stated that feathers on owls  cover their ears and even there legs and right down to their talons, where as other daylight birds of prey, raptors, the feathers stop higher up the leg. Kruid said naturists believe the feathering was due to the owls hunting at night so needed the extra warmth, as the day time birds of prey needed speed. She also mentioned that tests have been done concerning owls’ eyesight and it was found they could see a rodent a distance that incorporated the length of a football field.

The Hase family of Sioux City, Iowa, Greg and his daughter, Madison, said they didn’t see any owls during the prowl but heard one and Madison believed it was a screech owl. Mr Hase said the family just wanted a fun night out while the temperatures were a little warmer.  The Nature Center sponsors different events throughout the year and also camps for children. These activities can be found on its website.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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