Owls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

               There are many different ways that people view owls. In popular culture, they are often portrayed as being mysterious or magical. Some cultures view owls as being a bad omen, while others view them as being a symbol of wisdom or knowledge.

               At Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we run owling programs that teach kids about owl species in their area. We like to debunk many common myths that people believe about owls. For starters, many people believe that an owl can keep spinning its head all the way around. This actually isn’t true. Owls are able to turn their heads an astounding 270 degrees. This is due to the fact that owls have fourteen vertebrae in their neck, double the amount that a human has. This is useful, as owls cannot move their eyes in their skull. It’s also common for people to believe that all owls are nocturnal. While many owl species do prefer the night, many can be seen during the day. Some owl species are corpuscular, meaning that they are primarily active as the sun rises and sets. There are three main species of owls found in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: barn owls, barred owls, and great horned owls.

Barn Owl

The barn owl is about 16 inches tall with a wingspan of about 42 inches. They are the smallest of the three owl species we have in the park, weighing in at about a pound. They tend to prefer open grasslands and meadows. They can often find small mice and voles in these large open areas.  

Alamy Stock Photo

Barred Owl

The barred owl is about 21 inches tall with a wingspan of about 42 inches. They weigh in at about 1.6 pounds. These owls primarily live and hunt in forested areas. Their barred pattern (where they get their name) makes it easy for them to blend into tree bark. They often wait on a branch and watch the forest floor for small rodents, frogs, fish, and more.  

California Academy of Sciences / Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles

Great Horned Owl

The great horned owl is about 22 inches tall with a 44-inch wingspan. It’s the largest of the three owl species found in the park with an average weight of 3.1 pounds. They like a mix of meadows and forested areas. They particularly like marshy areas that have trees nearby. They are considered a fierce predator, eating prey such as rabbits, ducks, mice, and even hawks. They are even known to sometimes take over eagle nests.

Photo by Sally King

Owl Pellets

Owls usually eat their prey whole. Since they are unable to digest bones, feathers, and fur, these parts are ground up and compressed in the owl’s gizzard. Later it’s regurgitated as a pellet of animal material that could not be digested. Owls produce 1-2 pellets a day.

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