With their eerie calls and silent flight, owls are among the most elusive and misunderstood of all birds. Owls have been described across the world in legends and fables as a mystical being, often synonymous with death, while in other cultures, the owl is considered as being “wise”. The word “owl” is derived from the Icelandic word “ugla” meaning “fearful or “dreadful”. In most Western cultures, views of owls have changed drastically over time. Owls can serve as indicators of the state of an ecosystem. Certain owl species are adaptable and opportunistic. Many owl species have adapted to hunting rodents in urban surrounds. This function serves as a complimentary pest control to humans.
A pair of Spotted Eagle Owls that are housed at the Tenikwa Wildlife Sanctuary recently produced offspring. Unfortunately the adult birds are not suitable for release, yet the three chicks can be released back in to the wild with some assistance. Gondwana Game Reserve has recently obtained the three Spotted Eagle Owl fledglings with the responsibility of fostering and encouraging instinctive hunting behaviour. The owls are fed prey such as small mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. It often swallows quite large prey whole.
Owls differ from other birds in having soft, frayed edges to their flight feathers which allows them to fly in silence and capture prey undetected. All have acute hearing and enormous eyes, which provide excellent vision in low light. Spotted Eagle Owls mate for life. The male will hunt and bring food when the female cannot leave the nest. Sometimes, even in conditions verging on starvation, he will tear the head off a mouse, but bring the body for the female to feed to the young, or to eat it herself if the eggs have not yet hatched.
The three fledglings are intended to be released in Spring on the reserve. In addition owl boxes are planned to be erected around the lodges to encourage owl roosting sites. This is a brilliant and efficient eco-solution to controlling rodent populations. This is project goes in hand with the Gondwana Goes Green Programme.