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The “horns” on their heads are not

horns or ears but tufts of feathers. The birds are mostly brown with a white throat, but their bright yellow eyes are the most captivating part of their appearance. Great horned owls are fierce hunt-

ers and their diet is quite varied. They eat small rodents like mice and voles, or

squirrels and gophers, but enjoy

animals as large as skunks, one of their favoured meals! It’s not uncommon for wildlife rehabilitation centres to receive injured great horned owls, usually from vehicle collisions, and it is comical how often the owls are very stinky from their last meal. They even eat other birds, including predators like hawks. The call of the great horned owl is

one of the most recognized of all owl calls, a series of hoots in four or five syllables, ho-ho-hoo-hoo-hoo. Eastern screech owls are much small-

er birds and because of their size many mistake them for young owls. They are only six to 10 inches high and weigh a mere four to 8.5 ounces. Their wing- span is 18 to 24 inches. They are grey or red with the red actually being a rusty shade. Screech owls nest in the natural cavities of trees, old wood- pecker cavities and even in birdhouses. People who put up wood duck houses are often surprised when this little owl claims the house. Northern saw-whet owls are not seen

very often since they are so tiny – at 6.5 to 8.5 inches tall. Their wingspan is 17 to 22 inches and they weigh up to 5.25 ounces. Their name comes from the sound they make, which has been described as a saw being sharpened on a whetstone. That repeating whistle sound is most often heard in spring when mating begins. Saw-whet owls also use tree cavities

for nesting, where the female will lay five or six eggs. The father hunts to feed his mate while she incubates the eggs. Once the chicks have hatched and developed feathers, the female will leave the father to continue caring for the young while she pursues another male to begin another nest. Next time you walk through any

a park or canoe along the river look closely in the trees. You never know “hoo” might be watching. P

Sherrie Versluis owns The Preferred Perch Wild Birds and Specialty Gift Store in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Eastern screech owls are only six to eight inches high. Beautiful Gardens 2014 • 9

Northern saw-whet owl can be heard most often in the spring.

Photo by Dick Daniels.

Photo by Sage.

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