Halloween creatures – owls, crows and bats – all live at Crossroads, and that makes us very happy, for these “scary” animals make a positive contribution to the habitats of the preserve. We don't even mind black cats, IF they are kept indoors. Feral and outdoor cats are exceedingly harmful to wildlife ... and that's not a superstition! But to tamp down superstitions, we at Crossroads will spend the week demystifying Halloween creatures.
On October 28, 2022, at 6 p.m. will be our “Evening with Owls.” The Open Door Bird Sanctuary will be at Crossroads, offering a one-hour presentation followed by the opportunity to meet and greet live birds. Learn all about owls and the other incredible birds in the care of the Sanctuary!
Down through the centuries, in many cultures throughout the world, owls have been associated with evil and death. Truth is, owls probably are not smart enough to be evil. But researchers agree that owls are about as dim as the nighttime forests in which they hunt.
Owls don't need to be smart. They have everything else going for them. They are muscular. They fly silently. Their huge eyes enable them to see in the dark. Their beaks and talons are strong and wickedly sharp. But their sensitive ears are what make owls extraordinary hunters.
Most people assume that the plumicorns (a.k.a. "horns”) of an owl are its ears. Not so.
The actual ears lie under feathers on the sides of the head, and they aren't symmetrical. Because one ear is higher than the other and the ears are unequal in size, sound is different from different directions, helping owls locate prey, which they do almost unfailingly, even in total darkness.
Owls do not smell their prey. As with most birds, the sense of smell is insignificant, if it exists are all. Great Horned Owls frequently prey on skunks. Enough said.
But well-developed intelligence? Researchers have observed owls beating their wings on bushes to try to flush out little birds. Is this learned behavior? Is it problem-solving?
For the most part, owls do not have a lot of problems to solve. They appropriate abandoned nests of other birds, so they don't need building skills. They are stealthy by nature, and they pounce on and usually catch anything they hear, so they don't need hunting techniques.
In spite of ghost stories, legends of American First People, and superstitions from Europe and India, hooting owls do not foretell impending death, although their nocturnal calls are spooky. We hear them now and then this time of year, but we will regularly hear those eerie calls at Crossroads in January or February.
In contrast to owls, crows are noisy all year ‘round and they are amazingly intelligent. They can learn. They can remember. They can solve problems. They can even identify individual humans. And they detest owls, though whether this is innate or learned behavior is not clear.
Those curious about crows will want to attend the Crossroads Book Club on Wednesday, October 26, at 10:00 a.m. This month, the book “Crow Planet, Essential Wisdom for the Urban Wilderness” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt will explore the fascinating world of these remarkable birds. The program is free and open to all, whether or not they have read the book.
So bring the family to our program on owls, learn about crows at the Crossroads Book Club, or learn about bats at our pre-school Junior Nature Club on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. or our Family Science Saturday program at 2:00 p.m. Costumes are encouraged but not required at Junior Nature Club and Science Saturday, and adult visitors are welcome.