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Aug 1, 2010
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Seven Pines, Virginia
On friday night (August 6) I ventured into the Highland Stables and noticed in the area adjacent to the cashier was a Barn Owl, named Greer. He looked scared and unhappy. He was very vocal. Busch Gardens did a pretty godd job of setting up his enclosure. See photos.
 

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Nov 14, 2009
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Williamsburg, VA
I've been there several times watching people argue of whether or not he's real ;) He's usually pretty stationary. When he does act up though, he's pretty intense.

Cool use of that space. Really is awesome what they've done with the stables. There was a lot of concern about that area when it was announced that the Busch Clydes were leaving, but I think they've made it even better now. Scotland has much more of a Scottish theme with the sheep, collies, the barn owl at the stables, and the AB shop transformed into a Scottish themed gift shop. Very cool.
 
Sep 28, 2009
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Celticdog, in regards to your post about the owl being unhappy, that would be untrue. Owls are mostly nocturnal by nature and are more active at night. Being that I work with many birds of prey (including owls); this is pretty much what they do during the day even when hundreds of people are not walking by and banging on the cage. I actually know how to do owl calls and the little barn owl will talk to me on occasion when I walk up. His expression when I went by was complete indifference to everything; looking towards the wall, eyes closed and resting, wings tucked and head bent forward are all signs of a sleepy and care-free owl.

I spoke with the handler who had the barn owl out one day and just like the organization and they have strict training sessions with the birds to become a bit more tolerant of humans. That way, when you have them on your arm and a little kid walks up and sequels, the owl doesn't bait off your arm and go talon's first into the kids eyes. Not cool. Training is a VERY slow process and one never pushes a bird to do something they are uncomfortable with. You see, if you loose the trust of the bird, you cannot get that back; you have to know what you are doing and always respect the fact that these birds are expert hunters with sharp pointy talons and beaks! Handling Raptors can be considered an art form as you have to understand the bird; know the signs of when it has had enough, and can sooth it when it is flustered or upset. I was actually impressed at how tolerant the owl had become. This is a great sign that the techniques the animal handlers use are uniform and followed at all times.

 

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BBW

Jun 10, 2010
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Dinwiddie County, VA
Celticdog said:
On friday night (August 6) I ventured into the Highland Stables and noticed in the area adjacent to the cashier was a Barn Owl, named Greer. He looked scared and unhappy. He was very vocal. Busch Gardens did a pretty godd job of setting up his enclosure. See photos.

Nora said:
Celticdog, in regards to your post about the owl being unhappy, that would be untrue. Owls are mostly nocturnal by nature and are more active at night. Being that I work with many birds of prey (including owls); this is pretty much what they do during the day even when hundreds of people are not walking by and banging on the cage. I actually know how to do owl calls and the little barn owl will talk to me on occasion when I walk up. His expression when I went by was complete indifference to everything; looking towards the wall, eyes closed and resting, wings tucked and head bent forward are all signs of a sleepy and care-free owl.

Hmm, well, to me Celticdog made an observation about the owl "appearing scared" and vocalizing a lot on a specific occasion, but still complimented the owl's environment (enclosure). Nora on another occasion saw "eyes closed and resting." Surely neither statement is "untrue," just different behavior observed on different occasions :huh:? (For me, I don't have enough info to declare the owl happy or unhappy ;). ) Overall I think Busch does very good work with animal conservation and education, but there's got to be times when an individual animal appears scared or upset about something even in a setting in which it is generally comfortable.

Thanks for the information about raptors, Nora! I like the pic! I am looking forward to checking out this newer resident of the Highland Stables!
 
Sep 23, 2009
282
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North Carolina
Learn something new every day about Nora! I saw the owl when we were there for the Bangles concert. He was a bit perturbed at all the kids annoying him, but other than that, he looked pretty sweet.
 
Sep 28, 2009
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Hey BBW- when it comes to Raptors, I am a wealth of info... that is, if you ever have a question about them. For those who visit the owl this year; I have compiled some video, info, and pictures of common expressions to judge the owl's mood.

Contrary to popular belief, it does not hoot. It instead produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range (cover your ears!!). Males in courtship give a shrill twitter. It can hiss like a snake to scare away intruders, and when captured or cornered, it throws itself on its back and flails with sharp-taloned feet, making for an effective defense. Also given in such situations is a rasp and a clicking snap, produced by the bill or possibly the tongue.

To have some fun and a lesson on barn owls, so the next time everyone goes to see our feathered friend- here are things to look for.

If a Barn Owl is very angry; it hisses! This video would be what an "unhappy; scared" barn owls look like and sound like.- view:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMOvS9BeHiY

Or they could clack their beak like in this cool video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_J1VCCC_So&feature=related

Defensive stomping and screeching if territory is breached:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEJWmpErDRY

Great video of alert and sleepy barn owls. The bobbing of the head is done to pinpoint sound. The Barn Owl has acute hearing, with ears placed asymmetrically for improved detection of sound position and distance, and it does not require sight to hunt. Hunting nocturnally or crepuscularly, it can target and dive down, penetrating its talons through snow, grass or brush to seize rodents with deadly accuracy. Here is the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS3yB3XNy7U&feature=fvsr

 

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Mar 24, 2010
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Williamsburg
OK....

I think Nora has put the owl thing to rest eh? You'd have to actually be an owl to know more than that.

Hey Nora, I have a hooting owl somewhere near my house. I hear him quite often in spring, and I also find fluffs of what I can only assume used to be a squirell or mouse in my yard about once a month.

Two questions if you have the time to answer. What kind of owl might be hooting at me, and would it be the cause of the furry shrapnel?
It's always the same thing, Early morning, right in the middle of the lawn and nothing left but fluffy gray fur.

Just curious.
thanks,
 
Sep 28, 2009
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Virginia
Hey Oldtimer! Great question!

Owls in this area of Virginia are: Screech Owls, Barred Owls, Barn Owls, and Great Horned Owls.

Barred Owl Calls are my favorite and I love to try to replicate the call. They sound like "Hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot.. hoot-hoot-hoo-hooooOOO" with the last note being higher in pitch: http://www.owlpages.com/sounds/Strix-varia-1.mp3

Great Horned, the most common owl call is plain Hoots - kind of "hoo-hoo-hooo........hoooo-hooooo": http://www.owlpages.com/sounds/Bubo-virginianus-4.mp3

Screech Owls; that do not technically "screech" sound like a horse whinny or high to low pitch series of trills and sometimes just one long trill note. "HOOOooooooooo....HOOooooo" I can actually make this sound..but it kills the throat!: http://www.owlpages.com/sounds/Megascops-asio-2.mp3

Barn Owls are the real screech owls as per the sounds found in the above post.

I have a pair of Great Horned owls living nearby and a screech owl living in my little owl box in my backyard. Yes, you can by screech owl boxes... kid you not. Screech owls are very small owls; about the size of a softball...so CUTE!

If you figure out what owl lives near your home, let me know! By the way, besides "Queen of Useless Information", my friends at work also call me "Owl Lady". :)

spookybri said:
i think that owl poop cause when they do their business its fluffy and you can find animal bones in it

Well, owl poop is liquid, gooey, and smelly (cleaned a lot of it up- first hand account there). "Owl Puke" or Owl Pellets as we call them are what you are talking about. Owls eat their food whole; or mostly whole- bones, fur, everything. They are unable to digest bones and fur - so the undigested material collects in the gullet and is regurgitated and expelled in a pellet form. The contents of a bird's pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur, feathers, bills, claws, and teeth. In falconry, the pellet is called a casting. Yummy!

You can buy these "pellets" at science stores- dissect them and build a little skeleton of whatever the bird ate. I did this one, and glued together an entire skeleton of a shrew. However, if you find one lying around.. don't do this. The ones in the stores are kept sanitary and clean. If you "find" one, it may have some nasty bacteria and viruses on them. Ick.
 
Mar 24, 2010
179
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Williamsburg
Well the audio isn't working for me here at work, but by your written explaination it sounds like I have a Great Horned Owl. Actually two I think. They seem to be in the backyard and side yard. I also have a hawk nearby as I saw him just a few months back sitting on the roof of my garage in the morning. I have the picture somewhere. It's amazing to see these guys up close. They can be huge!

My guess is one of these two guys is our rodent hunter.

sorry to hijack the thread, and thanks for the information Nora.
 
Sep 28, 2009
1,411
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Virginia
Well if you have two great horned owls, that would be awesome! If one has a low tone and the other a higher tone.. then you probably have a mating pair. Owls mate for life; much like wolves do. So if your pair has a successful clutch (group of baby owls), you will hear and see your neighborhood owls for many years to come. They hoot mostly at dusk; but in Jan & Feb you may hear them quite a bit as it is their "nesting season". ;) Wink-wink-nudge-nudge.

Cool fact; a group of owls is called : "A Parliament of Owls" What a hoot!
 
Mar 24, 2010
179
97
90
Williamsburg
Awesome!!

I can't wait to hear them again. I'll listed for the pitch of the hooting next time and let you know.

I'll have to name them, if it is a mating pair.
 
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