Owl Prowls
December 12, 2013

Several Mass Audubon properties around the state are offering owl programs this winter, from moonlit hikes to special family activities. Before you embark on one, some owl education might be helpful.

Did you know that there are eleven owl species that you may spot in Massachusetts? They are the Eastern screech owl, great horned owl, snowy owl, Northern hawk-owl, burrowing owl, barred owl, great gray owl, long-eared owl, short-eared owl, boreal owl, and the Northern saw-whet owl.

Owls can be tricky to spot, since most tend to focus their activities after dark. During the day, many owls are likely to sleep or doze in thick evergreens or within the cavity of a tree. That said, long-eared owls and short-eared owls often begin hunting shortly before sundown, and sometimes can be seen flying low over meadows in search of prey. Owls are found in all sorts of habitats, including dense forests, wood lots, swamps, marshes, grasslands, and even residential neighborhoods

Since owls have fourteen different bones in their neck, allowing them to turn their heads nearly three-quarters of the way around, they can spot you long before you see them. Joining an organized owling excursion increases your chances of seeing one since naturalists know what to look for, like “whitewash” on branches and on the ground, and owl pellets below a favorite roosting tree.

This Saturday, December 14, the owl prowl program offered at the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick coincides with the annual Geminid meteor showers, though of course, the weather will determine how much you will be able to see. Frequent evening owl visitors at Broadmoor include the screech owl and great horned owl.

On January 11, a full moon owl prowl is scheduled at the sanctuary and on February 1, you’re guaranteed to meet some owls at Broadmoor’s Owl Festival, when a great horned owl and screech owl will be presented. Following the show, a guided prowl to listen for owls in the wild will be held.

Make sure to check Mass Audubon’s website for other owl events. There’s one happening almost every weekend from now through February, including a unique event to build an owl box for your backyard at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum on February 19. Everything from precut wood and hardware are included, as well as directions (pre-registration required). Participants will also get to meet one of the museum's resident screech owls and a chance to ask an experienced naturalist questions




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