Cambridge Wildlife Arts:
Our Animal Neighbors in Cambridge
Episode 6: Great Horned Owls
Episode Six was published on May 17 at 4:00 p.m. on YouTube: Click here to watch!
1. An Owl's Face
Where are an owls’ ears anyway? If you looked deep under the head feathers of an owl, you would discover that it has a slit on each side of its skull. Each slit is a flap of skin, called an ear conch (pronounced konk), which opens into a large ear canal, as shown above.
An owl opens and closes its ear conches by using muscles beneath the rings of feathers around the owl’s face. The rings of feathers are called the facial disc. The facial disc captures and funnels sound into the owl’s ears, just as a TV satellite dish funnels broadcast signals into its antenna.
Some owls have ears located directly across from each other, in symmetrical placement. Others have asymmetrical placement, where an ear on one side of the head is located above the one on the other side of the head, which increases their ability to locate sound on a vertical axis. These owls use their uneven ears to judge exactly where sound is coming from.
If an owl hears a mouse rustling, perhaps even below a blanket of snow, the sound may reach one ear before it reaches the other ear. The owl moves its head until the noise reaches both ears at the same time. Once an owl has done this, it has pinpointed the location of the sound and is ready to pounce – even if it has not seen its prey.
From Owl Research Institute:
Vocabulary from this Episode
See if you can explain what these phrases mean:
facial disc (see "An Owl's Face, left)
birds of prey
In this episode, did you find out....
1. ...why owl pellets contain bones, and hawk pellets do not?
2. ...why the owl in the video is an "Education Owl?"
3. ...one reason why owls are nocturnal hunters, usually?
4....why people should not throw food out the window of a car?
5....how a Great Horned Owl's hooting is different from the sound an Eastern Screech Owl makes?
Can you name any other birds of prey that live in Cambridge?
Make an owl mask! Think about what colors your feathers need to be to blend in with the environment. You have a short, curved beak, a facial disc (see below. If you are a Great Horned Owl, don't forget the tufts of feathers that stick up from your head, as if they were ears or horns. You need: card stock or heavy paper, glue stick, markers or crayons, fabric or felt in brown, gray, white, and black, scissors to cut feather shapes out of fabric or felt. hole punch for the sides of the mask, and string or elastic to attach the mask to your head.