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Owls: our master hunters

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Owls:  our master hunters - Winona Sunday News Outdoor Section m Wlnona...
Winona Sunday News Outdoor Section m Wlnona Sunday Wlncna, Minnesota SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 19J1 Yoice of the Outdoors Trent data With creeks beginning to ipen, more sportsmen are giv- og some thought to trout fish- ng. We have received several nquiries about conditions In Northwestern Iowa where there s year around fishing. Some ocal fishermen have traveled jo that area only to find deep snow, blocking back roads and stopping any planting o( fish. Creeks there are now beginning to open, however. Locally, fishermen ar« asking about opening day, creek conditions, and how fish planted in the faTl wintered. wintered. Few sportsmen, however, however, have ventured out to Investigate. They all forecast forecast flooding on the creeks. Fisheries men say the creeks now look good. May 1 marks the opening of the trout season in Minnesota. The Wisconsin opening Is set for May 8-general opening of the inland season in that state. Minnesota's inland fishing season season for walleyes and northerns down't open until a week later, or May 15. The river zone is open to fishing now, and some nice walleyes are being taken taken below the Red Wing dam. One seven-pound fish was caught there last Saturday. Saturday. Fishing below the Dresbach dam on ths Wisconsin Wisconsin side of the river and below the Trempealeau dam on the Minnesota side has been fair. Crappie fishing In Blackbird ·lough has been good. The fish have been running large. Fish- trmen are hiking to the hot ipots on the ice. There are gome soft spots but (he ice, generally, is safe. Voyagenr Park A bin to facilitate the donation donation of state and county lands to the federal government government in order to establish Voyageurs National Park was revealed Tuesday by Commissioner of Natural Resources Robert Herbst. At a press conference in the capitol, Herbst and the bill's chief authors explained that the legislation was needed to satisfy the provisions of the federal act creating the park and to meet requirements of state law. The bill withdraws state lands from the Kabetogama State Forest and directs the governor to donate these to the federal government for park purposes. Trust fund lands will be condemned by the Minnesota commissioner commissioner of administration along with lands owned by local units of government and then donated to the federal government. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that condemnation satisfies stale constitutional ''public sale" requirements. The bin provides for an appropriation appropriation necessary to acquire both the trust fund lands and those owned by local units of government. government. The amount was left open, however, until more precise appraisal figures are arrived arrived at. Herbst said the bill was drawn by the at- tornev general's office ar.d satisfies all the legal requirements requirements of both slate and federal law. THE SNOW OWL . . , This It on» of the big birds that, during sunset, circles the arta seeking food. The bird hunts at night in the same territory patroled by the red-tailed hawk during ihe day. (Bill Drazkowski photo) Control rodentsOwls: rodentsOwls: our master hunters By Brother Theodore Voelker, FSC The bin has unusually strong bipartisan support. Its main authors authors are Senator Stanley Holm- quisl, majority leader in the Senate, and Rep. Tom New- como. chairman of the Minnesota Minnesota Resources Commission. Biology Department Saint Mary's College Among the most maligned of our bird population are the two larger owls, ths great horned and the barred; barred; the smaller screech owl has a bit belter reputation. reputation. It is true that the two aforementioned owls of our area do attack domestla poultry at times, but their usual reason for frequenting barnyards Is to obtain their staple diet of rats and mice. In fourteen visits made to the nest of a great horned owl near Troy, Minnesota, in early Spring 1969, Paul LeDuc and I found at each visit from 3 to 5 halves of Norway rats (the owls always always eat the hindquarterj last), a number of voles, field mice, and house mice. The game birds the great horned takes from time to time are usually the less virile, virile, and this natural selection selection helps to keep the strain of the fowl strong. Also, there is a control of the overabundance overabundance ol a certain species which through lack of food, would result in their death anyhow. The owls of Minnesota in the order of decreasing size are: great gray, great horned, horned, snowy, barred, barn, hawk owl, short-eared, long- eared, burrowing, screech, boreal, and sawwhet. Great gray owls are found in far northern Minnesota and in Canada. Occasionally Occasionally they come as far south as the Twin Cities, in certain certain winters when there is a food shortage in the north. Snowy owls of the Arctic region come to Minnesota only in the 5-year cycles of lemming migration. When these small m a m m a l s , which constitute the chief diet of the snowy owl, become become scarce, he is forced to move to areas of greater food supply. The hawk owl sometimes comes south for food also but this bird seems to have no regular cycle pattern. The southernmost record of a hawk owl in Minnesota was the one which wintered on Wabasha Sard Prairie in 1962. Barn owls, once quite abundant in our state, are seldom seen here any more. The last pair reported nesting nesting in Minnesota brought up their family in an abandoned abandoned barn near Truman about seven years ago. Both the short-eared owl of our western prairie lands and long-eared owl of our conifer forests nest in Minnesota. Minnesota. For the most part these two species migrate farther south than Minnesota Minnesota in winter. There are « few burrowing burrowing owls In the northwest part of our state ia the summer summer months. These birds usually nest in the same area as the Richardson ground squirrels, whose burrows burrows they use for nesting. The sawwhel, the tiniest of our owls, nests in a hole In a tree -- either a woodpecker's woodpecker's abandoned nest or a natural cavity. This owl is very tame on his wintering wintering grounds, where he consumes consumes hundreds of voles, meadow mice and shrews, but becomes a fierce little battler when approached at his nest with young. The Richardson's owl, now called the boreal owl, resides in the far north, sometimes spending the winter winter in the northern half of our state. Screech owls were once very common around Winona Winona but now are found only occasionally. In general, the two most prevalent owls of Southeastern Minnesota are the great horned and the barred. The barred owl most often often frequents the lower river river or creek bottom lands in common w i t h t h e red- shouldered hawk, while the great horned is more frequently frequently an upland bird of our valleys and hills, which he shares with the red-tailed red-tailed hawks. Since owls hunt by night and hawks by day, they will inhabit the same territory without engaging in territorial disputes. All owls swallow sizeable rodents whole without tearing tearing them apart. The smaller smaller varieties are ingested, and the undigeslable parts such as fur and bones are subsequently coughed up in the form of pellets. Many such pellets will be found under the roosting trees of owls and give us a complete run-rfown as to what these birds eat. Most owls prefer conifers for winter roosting when such trees are available. available. The great horned owl measures from 18 to 25 inches inches in height, tlie female being being larger than the male. In flight, their wings seem long and broad ar.d their "cars" (really luits of feathers) feathers) are held against the head. Their white throat SPRING'S ARRIVAL? This stretch of creek has thrown off its winter covering of ice, and now awaits (he (.oming of the trout fisherman. {Merritt Kcltey photo) stands out against the dark colored breast and is a diagnostic diagnostic mark by which the bird can be known, whether flying or perching. All owls have (light leathers leathers of a peculiar soft quality which enables them to fly making very little sound. This fact is a great boon to the owl when hunting hunting his prey, because his approach is practically inaudible. inaudible. Great horned owls eat rabbits, all types of rodents, birds, skunks, grouse, crows, red-tailed hawks and barred owls. In the two latter cases cases it is usually the im matures matures In the nest. Their call is a deep-pitched "hoo hoo hoo-hoo hoo." Because of this phrasing of notes these owls are often called the "five-hooter." They use the nests of other other large birds such as crows, hawks, or herons for raising raising their families. Here tha female lays from one to three white eggs, which are often found as early as the end of January in our area. Consequently, the female must begin incubation as soon as the first egg is laid to keep them from freezing. So the young, when hatched, hatched, are of different ages and sizes. The incubation period is SO days and the young remain remain in the nest for about 6 to 8 weeks. Both parents feed the immature and continue continue to do so even after the fledgings have left the nest, until they are able to fend for themselves. Whenever a crow spots this detested enemy, the great horned owl, he gives forth his alarm call and within minutes crows from all over the vicinity rally to Ihe owl's roosting place to pester him. One morning when I lived at Benilde High School in St. Louis Park, a great horned horned owl came to rest in a tall poplar tree in our backyard. Although I knew there were a few crows in the area, I did not realize how many there really were until one crow, having seen the owl, gave the alert. Within seven minutes there were 43 crows at the site. Since the owl refused to take notice of their raucous cries and their dive bombing, bombing, the crows began to depart depart one by one as they had come, after about a half hour of teasing the great horned. An owl with his back toward toward a person can look at you by turning' his head without moving his body one iota. Sometimes people think owls can turn their heads completely around on their necks but this is a misconception. misconception. They can turn them to almost 1EO degrees ar.d they make their movements movements in such a h'Jrry that the above error has become perpetuated. Although great horned owls are not a protected species in some states, including including Minnesota, they do serve as a control for many pests and to my way of thinking do deserve our gratititfe ar.d protection. Tne barred owl is a large brown and white round- headed bird without "ears". The combination of a barred barred breast and striped abdomen abdomen are its distinguishing marks. called t h e "eight-hooter", tiiis awl's call is higher pitched than that of the great horned and he seems to say "Who cooks for you-who cooks for you- all?" Sometimes he cuts the call to only the "whoo-ah" and, especially when tha family group have congregated congregated out of the nest, they · emit many kinds of screeches, screeches, yells, hisses, and hoofs. Barred owls use the unoccupied unoccupied nests of crows, hawks, or holes in trees where the female lays from 2 to 3 white eggs. For a number of years at Dunrovin, the Brothers' Retreat Retreat House near Marine on the St. Croix, this owl used the nest of a red-shouldered hawk. The owls occupied the nest in February and March, and by the time the ·hawks needed the nest in late April and May the barred barred owl family had already departed. Although an early ncster, the barred owl ia some weeks later in nesting than the great horned. Screech owls have a wavering, wavering, eerie, whinnying call which sounds rather spooky on a dark night. Although many people associate this song with misfortune, particularly particularly death, we must pass this off as an old wives' wives' tale. It really is a Ufa call, since it brings a male and female owl together to raise a family. In winter these owls may roost in bird houses, duck boxes, or woodpecker holes during the day, although they do like the protection of thick growths of conifers. They use tree holes as well as man-made boxes for nesting. Three to five white eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 26 days until hatching. Both parents feed the young until they are able to make it on their own. Screech owls occur in two color phases, red and gray; these different colored birds freely interbreed. Both phases phases may occur together in the same nest although both parents are of the same color. color. These small owls use open woodlands, and shade OWLS SEEN IN THIS AREA Drawings by Roger 7ory Peterson trees about houses in Ihe cities or in the backwoods. They live mostly on rodents but are known to eat house sparrows and pigeons and when really hungry will attack attack other species of birds. Because of the great number number of rodents they eat, owls are invaluable in the control control of our common pests. Every few years meadow mice pass through a cycle of greater abundance to relatively relatively lesser numbers of · individuals. At times when such peak populations occur, owls of all types winter at these well-stocked areas. Some years ago, I visited the Zim and Sax farmlands In the Minnesota Meadowlands Meadowlands area, about 60 miles slightly northwest of Duluth. Duluth. There were years when there was a heavy winter population of rodents. I n - a 12 mile stretch along the road we saw many snowy owls, two great gray at the Meadowlands dump, several hawk owls as well as the more common great horned, barred and screech owls. Besides these various owls, we also found rough- legged and red-tailed hawks. That these predators controlled controlled the oversupply of the rodent population there can be no doubt. In spite of the bad reputation reputation owls have among people, people, I feel these larger owls are necessary to our ecological ecological balance. All owls and hawks except the great horned are on the protected list in Minnesota, but this fact affords them little protection protection from trigger-happy Nimrods who shoot at anything anything that moves. In the nesting area of the great gray ow! in far north Minnesota, Minnesota, seven of these regal birds were found shot to death in a comparatively small area, although they do no harm to man an any way. Considering all the points of the great horned owl, both good and bad, I am In favor of protection for thi» magnificent specimen of the Bubo family. Just fora Foremost' engine tune-up. Here's what we do: Install new points, plugs, rotor, condenser and distributor ap; adjust carburetor, timing and dwell angle. 17.88 OQ ^J ^\ -- most 6 cyl. American car», -- most 8 cyl. American cars. Price includes parts and labor, f: enneui antA fAntpr TM THE HORNED (HYL . This owl is often seen sitting on fence posts of this area. It is often pestered by small birds. (Bill Drp.zkowski photo) ; Hours: Mon. thru Sat. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.. Sun. 12:30-5:30 Charge It at Penneys in Winono -- Plione 454-5120 I

Clipped from The Winona Daily News, 14 Mar 1971, Sun,  Page

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  • Owls: our master hunters

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