Nov 19, 2013

Fur, Feathers & Scales - Screech Owl

I've got another installment of my Fur, Feathers & Scales series for you today.  So far, we've met a hedgehog, a chinchilla, a desert tortoise, a bearded dragon, a guinea pig, a tarantula, a quaker parrot, a skink, a dove, and a couple of rats. Today, I'd like to introduce you to Occhio the Eastern Screech Owl!

Screech owls are found in eastern North America in many different kinds of habitats.  They are very small, standing at 6-7 inches tall.  Their feathers can be one of two different colors, gray like Occhio here, or reddish-brown.

They are predators and catch their food with their feet and talons.  Owls have zygodactyl feet, meaning their toes form the shape of an X, with two in front and two in back.  This is unlike many other birds that have three toes in front and one in back.  Their legs and feet are covered in fine feathers.

Owls have excellent eyesight and hearing.  Because they are nocturnal, owls have huge eyes that enable them to see in the dark. Actually, their eyes are so big  that there's not enough room for muscles to allow eye movement, so their eyes are fixed--they can't move their eyes around.  So, to compensate, they are able to turn their heads 270 degrees (about a 3/4 rotation.)  So cool!

Owls also have really cool ears--they're lopsided!  One ear is higher than the other, which allows the owl to easily pinpoint the location of the sound that it's hearing.  And those tufts on top of this owls head--those are not his ears.  His ears are located not too far from his eyes under all those feathers.

Screech owls get their names from the noise that they make.  Their screech is very eerie. They also have a high-pitched trill that, to me, sounds very much like a Halloween ghost noise.

Occhio (which means "eye" in Italian), is about three years old and is such a fun bird to work with at the zoo.  He definitely steals the show!

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