It’s February and love is in the air, literally. These singles aren’t interested in bouquets of roses, though. Several large species of owl mate for life, and by February, they are well into what some ornithologists call the “hooting season.” It’s a time of year when owl calls become more frequent; the male Great Horned Owl adds an extra syllable or two to his signature song and the Barred Owl’s trademark “who cooks for you” ramps up into a simian-like caterwauling. When a pair meets, they communicate their interest through a bobbing courtship dance.
February is a great time to track and observe these predatory birds. Bright moons and reflective snow, combined with the minimal leaf cover, create great conditions for spotting them. “Calls will be more frequent and point you in the right direction, but calls alone are tricky to follow,” explains Chewonki educator Kyle Wonser. “A better guide would be to look for the little gifts they leave behind.” Find a tree with vertical white lines of owl scat and then scan the base for owl pellets, which Kyle explains are little castings of fur and bones that the owl could not digest. “If you find both of these signs, you’ve likely found an owl’s hangout, maybe even its nest.”
Since many owls are crepuscular (twilight-active) the best time to catch a glimpse is usually dawn or dusk. The Chewonki Traveling Natural History program will also be touring a few of these amorous avians to libraries around Maine during February vacation week for those wishing to get a closer look at their amazing adaptations, (scroll to the bottom for dates).
Our wildlife center is home to four species of owls (Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, Screech Owls, and Saw-Whets), and although none of our owls are mated pairs, they certainly don’t lack admirers. Chewonki’s owls have connected with thousands of Maine youth all over the state, passing on a lifelong appreciation for the value of nature and wildlife. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the TNHP staff to receive several “love notes” each month from those who’ve fallen for these rapturous raptors. Some of our favorites are below!
Upcoming Traveling Natural History Presentations
Monday February 17th
The Lincoln Home Newcastle, ME “Owls of Maine” 3:00-4:00pm
Tuesday February 18th
Wells Public Library “Scales & Tails” 3:00-4:00pm
Wednesday February 19th
Rangeley Public Library “Scales & Tails” 10:30-11:30am
Baxter Public Library Gorham, ME “Fur, Feathers & Feet” 10:00-11:00am
*Community Arts Center Gorham, ME “Owls of Maine” 12:30-1:30pm*Please call (207) 899-6867 to pre-register
New Vineyard Public Library “Owls of Maine” 1:30-2:30pm
Carrabassett Valley Public Library “Owls of Maine” 4:30-5:30pm
Thursday February 20th
The Gem Theater Bethel, ME “Owls of Maine” 1:00-2:00pm