Let's Talk About Birds: Birds of Prey on Winter Exhibit
November 14, 2012 5:00 AM
The Eurasian Eagle Owl has a wingspan of 6 feet.
By the National Aviary Education Team
This is one of a series presented by the National Aviary, America's bird zoo. The National Aviary works to inspire a respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.
At a time of year when many birds fly south for the winter, a few cold-hardy National Aviary residents -- who usually live behind the scenes -- are moving to outdoor exhibits, viewable by visitors.
The National Aviary's resident Snowy Owl, Fleury, is spending the winter relaxing in a temporary outdoor enclosure in Condor Court. Visitors may notice that Fleury spends much of his time on the ground, rather than perched on branches. In the treeless tundra of the Arctic Circle, these owls sleep, perch, and even nest on the ground. The nest, a simple depression lined with feathers, may contain 3-11 eggs.
Male and female Snowy Owls are recognizable by their breast markings. Adult females have white feathers covered with black-brown speckles. This pattern provides camouflage as she incubates eggs on the ground. Adult males are smaller and have an almost solid white breast.
"Eagle-eyed" fans of the Harry Potter films may have noticed that Hedwig, the female snowy owl character, is actually portrayed by male snowy owl actors!
A pair of Eurasian Eagle Owls have joined Fleury in Condor Court, occupying the Andean Condor enclosure while the condor is off-exhibit for the winter. Named "X" and "Dumbledore", the owls were a feature in the National Aviary's Wings! show and have traveled to countless school presentations, but they have never been on exhibit.
A wingspan of 6 feet makes Eurasian Eagle Owls one of the largest and most impressive species of owls in the world. Well-adapted to chilly climates, they live throughout the dense boreal forests of northern Europe and Asia. Eurasian eagle owls begin breeding very early in the year, with courtship beginning as soon as January. Nesting starts in February, and chicks usually hatch in April. The National Aviary is hoping that the couple -- both hatched in captivity -- will feel comfortable enough in their temporary winter home to breed.
In addition to the owls, a juvenile Bald Eagle, named Amelia, has also moved to Condor Court. Amelia was injured in the wild, and wildlife rehabilitators tried three times to re-release her, but the releases were unsuccessful (poor vision may be to blame). She may be hard to recognize as our national bird because she has yet to develop a white feathered head. Bald Eagles must be at least 4 years old before sporting that regal look.
During your next visit to the National Aviary, don't forget to stop by Condor Court to view these magnificent birds of prey on exhibit for the season. For those who want to learn more, we provide a daily Birds of Prey Connection that enables you to meet a variety of raptors in our off-exhibit collection, and to meet up with our talented trainers. All of our Connections can be pre-booked, and make great gifts!