Jasper  (Barn Owl)

            Tyto alba

 

Barn owls are the most common owl found in the Central Valley.  They stand about 15 to 20 inches tall.  They have white, heart-shaped faces and no ear tufts.  The underside of their wings are pure white causing them to be misidentified as snowy owls.  Their bodies are pale yellow orange spotted with dark gray, brown, and white.  They are a true tapestry of colors.  They make clicking sounds and a shrill screech at night.  They appear ghostlike flying overheads silently with their noiseless flight feathers.  They have excellent binocular vision in part because their eyes are positioned in the front of the head.  Their vision at night is 100 times more sensitive than humans and their hearing is equally sensitive.  The feathery facial disks help channel sound to their large eardrums.  They are capable of turning their head 270 degrees.

Jasper was only a few months old when she arrived.  Her legs were splayed pointing almost sideways rather than forward.  In young birds, this condition can be easily remedied by taping the legs to point forward and allowing the bones to grow correctly (only a week or two in growing nestlings).  Jasper did improve but she was already too old to make a full recovery.  She has become a favorite among our educational birds because of her easy-going nature; however, she is fierce about protecting her mew at Critter Creek.

 

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