Monday, July 15, 2013

23-Fact Tuesday: Prairie Falcon, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Great-Horned Owl at the Dino Hotel in Denver!

As I mentioned in a post just a few days ago about the Harris hawk (which you can read by clicking HERE), the fantastic dinosaur-themed remodel at the Best Western Denver Southwest is well underway, and the folks over there are making the hotel even more fantastic by having weekly raptor (bird of prey) shows on Saturdays!  Each Saturday, Anne Price, one of the folks over at the Raptor Education Foundation, brings over four birds of prey to show to the audience!  Last week, they brought over a Harris hawk (which, like I already mentioned, I talked about in a previous post), a prairie falcon, a red-tailed hawk, and a great-horned owl!  I have so much information I wanted to share with you...but how!  How could I POSSIBLY share all of this information in a non-story like, brain-dumpy fashion?  AH-HAH!  Another 23-Fact Tuesday is upon us!  But before you enjoy, make sure you check out the website for the Raptor Education Foundation by clicking HERE, and checking out the Facebook page for the Best Western Denver Southwest by clicking HERE!
1.  This particular prairie falcon actually used to fly down at the Air Force Academy, where many of the cadets have the option of training a falcon!
One of the cadets with a falcon!  Photo Credit:
2.  The great-horned owl used to be the only member of the genus Bubo (what a fun name, right?), but around ten years ago, scientists reclassified the snowy owl to be the second member of the genus.
Quite possibly the most famous snowy owl of all time, Hedwig from the spectacular Harry Potter series!  Photo Credit:
3.  As for all raptors except for the New World vultures, the female red-tailed hawks are bigger than the males.
4. Falcons like the prairie falcon and the peregrine falcon will dive at their prey and actually punch them with their balled up feet!
A peregrine falcon diving to attack a brown pelican: holy COW!  Photo Credit:
5.  In response to this behavior on the part of the falcons, some prey species of bird have developed very tough feathers on their back and such to defend themselves against such attacks.
6. In nocturnal owls, like the great horned owl, the eyes are surrounded by a sort of sensory dish full of hyper-sensitive feathers that can actually detect sound, funneling it into the “dish.”
7.  Diurnal owls, such as the burrowing owls, do not have this dish, or at least it is not as pronounced as other owls that are more active at night. The burrowing owl is actually most active at dawn and dusk, although it can function perfectly well at night.  
A funny looking burrowing owl!  Photo Credit:
8.  Red-tailed hawks apparently love to nest in cottonwood trees.  I think I might have actually found a red-tailed hawk nest in a cottonwood tree: hopefully, there will be more information on that in a later post!
A red-tailed hawk nest in what might or might not be a cottonwood tree....Photo Credit:
9.  The great-horned owl that Anne brought in for the presentation is DEFINITELY a survivor: he has survived being shot, hit by a car, West Nile Virus, and being attacked by another owl!
10.  Here's the scoop: this particular great-horned owl first came to the sanctuary because it was hit by a car which, in the long run, probably saved its life. The reason why it hit the car in the first place was that it was flying drunkenly about due to the fact that it had West Nile Virus, which had caused its brain to go a little loopy. The owl received the medical treatment that it needed, and it wasn’t until a few years later, when it accidentally broke its leg, that a full X-Ray was ordered, and it was revealed that the owl had a few pellets lodged in its back. The skin had grown around it and completely healed, but yeah.  Still.  What a trooper!
11.  You might have noticed on some of these great-horned owl pictures that the pupil of the left eye is MUCH more dilated than the pupil on the right eye.  This is because this great-horned owl is blind is his left eye, due to the brush with West Nile Virus we were just talking about.
12.  Later on, there was an enclosure that contained three great horned owls: two males that could fly and an older, grumpier female that couldn’t really fly that well. The two males could EASILY avoid the female by remaining up in the top of the enclosure, where the female simply could not reach them. However, one time, the people walked into the enclosure to find this particular male great horned owl perched next to the grumpy female. The female didn’t seem to be displaying any hostility towards him, so they left them together.  After a few weeks, I believe, the female had decided that she had had enough, and attacked the male, and I believe broke his wing. He can fly today, but not terribly well, and not very far.
13.  Not all red-tailed hawks have a red tail. There is a wide variety of coloric differences across its vast range, and sometimes even melanistic forms are seen. This DEFINITELY messes with birders!
A melanistic red-tailed hawk!  Melanistic, FYI, would be just like a melanistic jaguar, where the coat of the animal is very, very dark, much darker than noraml, due to a pigment issue in its genes!  Photo Credit:
14.  As a matter of fact, none of them have red-tails their first year! At that point in their life, their tails are a darkish gray-brown: muddy and dull with darker brown stripes.
A juvenile red-tailed hawk!  Photo Credit:
15.  The juveniles don’t actually get their red tails until they molt, which, at the time this post is being written (early July) is happening now, in the spring and summer.  Here, we have a video featuring the red-tailed hawk, as well as a brief appearance by a pooping Harris hawk (which unfortunately happens off screen)!
16.  Besides the owls, only one other type of raptor is able to swivel one of it's toes to face backwards, so that it has two toes pointing forwards and two toes pointing backwards: the osprey!  The osprey does this to allow for a more secure grip when catching fish, and the owls undoubtedly do it for much the same purpose when it comes to holding on to their prey.
An osprey, where you have a clear shot of its feet!  Photo Credit:
17.  This particular prairie falcon has also survived a brush with West Nile Virus, just like the great horned owl!  Anne was telling us that no one really but her would know it, but he far right tail feather on this bird has grown in weirdly ever since the birds dangerous brush with the virus.  Here, we have a brief video where Anne talks a bit about this particular falcon's feather!
18.  Just like dogs, birds don't sweat.  Also just like dogs, birds will sometimes pant to help keep cool!  Below, we have a video of the great-horned owl thermoregulating via something we like to call "gular fluttering!"  
19.  As you can see in this video below, the prairie falcon is being assisted in its thermoregulation by the presenter Anne, who is misting him with some water!
20. The great-horned owl will eat (amongst other things, no doubt) worms, insects, fish, any amphibian, any reptile including rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, porcupines, skunks, raccoons, and other raptors.
A great-horned owl with a snake!  Photo Credit:
21.  The two brown streaks under its eyes help keep some of the light from reflecting into its eyes, just like the black paint worn under the eyes by football and baseball players.  Another fascinating example of convergent evolution at its finest!
Convergent evolution at its finest!  Photo Credit:
22.  A lot of the time when people think a hawk has gotten in and killed their chickens, its actually an owl.
A fox in the henhouse!  I couldn't find a picture of a hawk in a henhouse, and besides, I really liked this picture.  Photo Credit:
23.  For reasons that Anne couldn’t fully explain, other than maybe panic or opportunity, often when an owl finds itself in a pigeon loft, the owl will only pull out and eat one or two of the pigeons, but it will pull off the heads of almost all of them, and leave them there.  An interesting and gruesome way to end yet another fun-filled and fascinating 23-Fact Tuesday!  
And that's why people often use fake owls to scare away pigeons!  Photo Credit:
Make sure you check out the website for the Raptor Education Foundation by clicking HERE, and checking out the Facebook page for the Best Western Denver Southwest by clicking HERE!

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