Time: Refreshments at 7:30, program at 8:00 P.M.
Speaker: Hans Peeters
Topic: What makes owls so special?
Hans Peeters, Newly-fledged Northern Pygmy-owl, Northern Pygmy-owl Parent
Description: Are owls really wise? The seductive blink of their eyes and slow turns of their heads certainly suggest deliberation and purpose. Wisdom, however, is hardly an attribute of these efficient killing machines. Rather, an owl is an incredible composite of exquisitely tuned sensors, combined with great muscular strength and an aggressiveness that we would call courage. The large head is mostly occupied with an extraordinary hearing apparatus and out-sized eyes that leave little room for a fairly modest brain.
Why do aeronautical engineers study owls? How can owls catch an item as small as a mouse in complete darkness? And why that peculiar snake-charmer’s movement when confronted with something new? Most owls are highly vocal, and many have a rich vocabulary; but why do some throw their voices so skillfully? Their near-perfect camouflage gives us a clue. To deceive predators, owls seem to wax creative: the Burrowing Owl emits the buzz of a rattlesnake from its earthen burrow, and the Snowy Owl drops out of the sky, as if shot, to lead a predator away from its nest.
It is widely known that some owls are expert mousers, but there are species that feed exclusively on fish caught at night; others eat smaller owls, and still others pursue only insects.
So what else makes owls so special? Nearly everything!