The first Louisiana Garden Club meeting of the year was held March 10 at First Christian Church. Members of the Clarksville Garden Club also attended.
Karen Armstrong, an educational consultant from the Kirksville Department of Conservation, presented an informative program on owls. Of the nearly 9,000 kinds of birds in the world, ,only about 150 are owls. Owls are among the few birds depicted on cave walls by prehistoric man. Of the 18 owl species in North America, eight are native to Missouri or visit here.
The Missouri owls are the snowy owl, eastern screech owl, northern saw-whet owl, common barn own, long-eared owl, short-eared owl, and the great horned owls and owlet.
Contrary to popular belief, the owl cannot turn its head 360 degrees; it can turn only 270 degrees. Their hearing is very good with one ear located above the right eye and the other below the left eye. This sense is so keen that barn owls can locate prey in total darkness by hearing alone.
They have large eyes to hunt and see at night; the eyes are cylinders and cannot move from side to side. They are fixed forward and each eye therefore sees the same object from two different angles. This produces three-dimensional perception, making it easier to pinpoint prey and branches as the owl fly about in the dark.
To aid in nighttime hunting, owls are gifted with silent flight. This results from tiny serrations along the leading edge of the flight feathers that reduce the sound of flowing air.
Each spring and summer, well-meaning people pick up and try to raise baby owls on the ground or on low perches, believing them to be orphaned or in danger. It is normal for owls to leave the nest before they can fly. Their parents feed them regularly, though they may not be around at the moment.
It is illegal for anyone without a permit to pick up a baby owl. Captive owls often become sick and die. Those few that are reared are likely to be social misfits that can never return to their proper place in the wild.
Armstrong also performs presentations at schools and is piloting a program for pre-school students on the four seasons. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.