Looking carefully into the last mew of the aviary, you may be able to get a glimpse of our newest animal ambassador – a Great Horned Owl!
Our Great Horned Owl has finally arrived and has been settling in nicely! This owl has quite the backstory. As a chick, a predator raided the nest, but luckily, a good Samaritan found the helpless owlet on the ground next to the remains of the destroyed nest. She was taken to a proclaimed rehabber where she was imprinted. Kept in poor conditions, the National Aquarium came to her rescue and adopted her out. After caring for her for a year and a half, they decided she should get the chance to live in a more natural setting. Irvine was the perfect fit!
Training an imprinted Great Horned Owl has its ups and downs. On the positive side, she is already used to people and responds well to food and different toys (tennis balls are a favorite). On the other hand, Great Horned Owls are powerful birds – their feet have a gripping strength of 360 psi and their sharp curved beak is perfect for ripping apart prey. We solve this by always wearing a thick leather glove when handling the owl (and all our birds of prey).
Owls in general are fantastic creatures! They can turn their head 270 degrees around, they have serrated feathers that allow for nearly silent flight, and they have asymmetrical ears that allow them to hear sound from anywhere around them. The best way to view these nocturnal hunters of the sky is with your ears instead of your eyes. Listen closely for the varying calls of the seven owl species that reside in Maryland; they might be closer than you think!
If you are coming to visit our newest resident, please keep in mind that she is a nocturnal creature and she is still getting used to all the new sights, sounds, and smells! She will most likely be perched in the back nesting box. Look closely and you will be able to see her outline. If you’d like to get a closer glimpse, step up to the fencing and peer in – you’ll be greeted with massive yellow eyes staring right back at you! If you are lucky enough to be around when she is getting fed, you will be treated to quite the training period. She is currently being trained to fly to glove or fly to a perch for her meals.
We have had great progress with our new owl and hope to have her program ready by the end of this year!