Owls are mysterious raptors of the night, in the wild and in the urban forest. The Missouri Department of Conservation will offer a free virtual class about owls from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6. Participants will learn about the life histories and unusual traits that owls possess.
“The behavior and specialized structures of these birds of prey are different compared to other birds,” said Susan Harris, an MDC naturalist at the Gorman Discovery Center who will teach the class. “One fun fact about owls is that their eyes function differently than other birds. They cannot turn their eyes. Instead, owls rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. Some owls do this so quickly it gives the illusion they can turn their heads completely around.”
Eight species of owls can be seen in Missouri, some commonly and others rarely. The barred owl and great horned owls are the largest, their calls often heard by people who venture outdoors after dark. Eastern screech owls are smallish but lovely whether in a rusty-orange or a grayish-black plumage pattern. Short-eared owls visit Missouri grasslands from northern states in the winter. Snowy owls, like Harry Potter’s white owl, only visit from the far north when lemming populations crash and they fly south seeking food.
Harris also works with live owls as a volunteer at Lakeside Nature Center, a raptor rehabilitation site operated by Kansas City Parks and Recreation.
“I enjoy working with owls as education ambassadors because they are so highly intelligent they appear almost regal,” Harris said. “Owls are an important part of our ecosystem food chains in Missouri. Many owls help to keep down the rodent population in various areas.”
MDC’s virtual owl program is for ages 8 and older. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zaf. To learn more about owls in Missouri, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZaY.