Spotlight on Owls of the South Okanagan Similkameen

Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance  owl_image
Owls are found on all continents except Antarctica, and in a great variety of habitats, from thick forests to open prairies. There are approximately 213 known species of owls in the world. They range in size from the tiny Least Pygmy Owl, which is 12 cm (4½") tall, to the large Great Grey Owl, which can be up to 84 cm (33") tall.

What are Owls?

Owls are birds belonging to the order known as Strigiformes . They are divided into two families, the typical owls, Strigidae, and the barn-owls, Tytonidae. Owls are Raptors, or Birds of Prey, which means they hunt other animals for their food. Their special adaptations and unique abilities set them apart from other creatures. These include exceptional night vision, acute hearing, powerful talons and beak, the ability to fly silently and the ability to rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. All of these attributes form a formidable predator who uses stealth to hunt down prey.

Wise eyes?

Of all the Owl's features, perhaps the most striking is its eyes. Large and forward facing, they may account for one to five percent of the Owl's body weight, depending on the species. The forward facing aspect of the eyes that give an Owl its "wise" appearance also give it a wide range of "binocular" vision (seeing an object with both eyes at the same time). This means the owl can see objects in three dimensions (height, width, and depth), and can judge distances in a similar way to humans. The field of view for an owl is about 110 degrees, with about 70 degrees being binocular vision. To protect their eyes, Owls are equipped with 3 eyelids. Owls cannot move their eyes within their sockets like humans and other animals can. In order to look around, they have to move their entire head, which has a range of movement of about 270°.

Whooo am I?

Owls have a very wide range of vocalisations, ranging from the hoots so often associated with Owls, to whistles, screeches, screams, purrs, snorts, chitters and hisses. Hooting is often territorial but is also associated with courting, the male usually having the lower pitched Hoot (even though he’s almost always smaller than his mate). Not all Owl species Hoot--they can also make clicking noises with their tongues, often as part of a threat display. Some even clap their wings in flight as part of a mating display.

Food habits

Owls are Birds of Prey, which means that they must kill other animals to survive. Their diet includes invertebrates (such as insects, spiders, earthworms, snails and crabs), fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals. Like other birds, Owls cannot chew their food - small prey items are swallowed whole, while larger prey are torn into smaller pieces before being swallowed. Unlike other birds, Owls have no crop which is a loose sac in the throat that serves as storage for food for later consumption. Since an Owl lacks this, food is passed directly into their digestive system. After the food is digested, Owls regurgitate pellets, which contain the indigestible bones, fur and feathers of their victims.

Whoooo are the Owls of the South Okanagan Similkameen?

British Columbia is home to fifteen different species of owls, thirteen of which are found in the South Okanagan Similkameen. These are:
  • Small Owls
  • Boreal
  • Flammulated
  • Pygmy
  • Saw-Whet
  • Western Screech
  • Medium Owls
  • Burrowing
  • Common Barn
  • Long Eared
  • Northern Hawk
  • Short Eared
  • Large Owls
  • Barred
  • Great Grey
  • Great Horned

The South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center for Owls (SORCO)

The South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls has been operating since 1987 as a non-profit registered society. SORCO is a clinic and rehab facility for injured and orphaned birds of prey (Raptors). Our purpose is to treat and release all birds of prey. These include: Owls, Hawks, Eagles, Vultures, Falcons, and Osprey. which are returned back into the wild whenever possible. Centre is located just one kilometer south of Vaseux Lake near the town of Oliver in the South Okanagan Valley of BC. SORCO is not a zoo. Due to government restrictions, no public visitation at the facility is allowed at this time. 98% of all orphaned chicks are able to be released back into the wild. Please visit www.sorco.org for further information.

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