Birdy Spotlight – Owls

Written by:  Ryanne Sullivan, Animal Care Professional

In honor of Halloween, this month’s birdy spotlight is on a group of birds that hunt in the dark of night- owls! These mysterious birds are great to have around because a staple of their diet includes rodents.

Since barn owls play a huge role in controlling rodent populations, many people don’t mind having them around.  A single barn owl can consume about 1,500 rats, mice, voles and gophers per year!  Did you know that an entire family of barn owls can consume about 25 rodents per night? Woah!

After an owl eats, anything that is indigestible is formed into a pellet which is regurgitated (swallowed food brought up again to the mouth). A favorite science class pastime is dissecting this pellet. With thorough investigation, you can discover what an owl has eaten.  Some of the items found in these pallets are insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur, feathers, bills, claws, and even teeth.

Owls have amazing adaptations and senses - their most notable adaptation is their keen eyesight, enabling them to see the length of a football field with the light of a single candle! Their eyeballs are also locked into a circular bone in their skull making it impossible to move their eyes around.  To make up for their forward facing eyes, owls have additional neck bones that make it possible to swivel their head an average of 270 degrees.  Along with their great eyesight, many owl species have asymmetrical ears. Located at different heights on the owl’s head, their ears are able to pinpoint the location of sounds even in multiple dimensions.

ZooTampa is home to 5 of the 216 species of owls that are in the world. You can our resident owl species along the Florida Boardwalk and during the daily “Spirits of the Sky” Bird of Prey show. You might also see an owl during Creatures of the Night’s “Pigpimples School of Mystery and Mayhem” show on select nights through October.