Owls generate pleasure for a lot of causes. They are lovely, highly effective, charismatic — symbols of knowledge and intelligence. Many are massive apex predators. Their nocturnal habits, cryptic camouflage and spooky vocalizations give them an aura of thriller. Most folks don’t see owls within the wild typically, so it feels particular when we’ve a private encounter with one. One approach you’ll be able to see owls is to go to the Anita Purves Nature Center and welcome its latest schooling ambassador, “Lightning.”
Lightning is a red-phase Eastern screech owl. He hatched in early 2020 at the Illinois Raptor Center, a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Decatur. Because Lightning has by no means established a territory or realized to hunt, he can’t survive within the wild. Lightning got here to stay at the character middle in summer season 2021 and now enjoys the corporate of two different male Eastern screech owls: Jack and Quasi. The nature middle offers a secure and cozy house for these owls and several other different species of non-releasable wildlife, together with turtles and snakes.
Through a strategy of gradual and cautious introduction, Lightning has adjusted exceedingly effectively to his life at the character middle. He eats effectively, will get alongside along with his companions, and has already began working his day job. You learn it proper — these animals have jobs! The schooling wildlife housed at the character middle help employees with environmental applications for faculties, scouts, public occasions and extra.
The goal of this work is two-fold. First, folks are likely to study and care extra about wildlife and conservation after they have direct connections. Second, these teaching programs supply behavioral enrichment for the animals and situation them to not be pressured by human interplay. If a person animal is unable or unwilling to take part in programming, then different types of enrichment are offered.
At roughly 7-9 inches in size, Eastern screech owls are the smallest owls that stay in Illinois year-round. Other resident owls embody the barred owl, the nice horned owl and the barn owl. With the exception of the uncommon barn owl, every of those species will be discovered residing amongst us proper right here in Champaign-Urbana!
In the winter, 4 extra species of owls might migrate right here from the north: the Northern saw-whet owl (which is even smaller than the screech owl), the long-eared owl, the short-eared owl and the snowy owl.
Many owl species breed in winter. Young owls fledge at round 4 to 10 weeks of age. They might department out from the nest earlier than they can fly and generally even fall to the bottom. People might mistake them as injured, however their dad and mom will proceed to feed and take care of them, so it’s finest to go away them alone.
The winter season could be a nice time to seek for wild owls in Illinois. They are typically most energetic in the course of the hour after sunset, so plan accordingly. And if you’re unable find any owls within the wild, don’t fret! You can at all times go to Lightning, Jack and Quasi at the Anita Purves Nature Center.
David Subers is the environmental public program coordinator for the Urbana Park District. Email him at [email protected].