Friday, January 31, 2014

Snowy Owl Yawn 2

I drove John Holden over to the fields east of Vermillion, Minnesota, from whence Erika and I previously blogged about seeing a Snowy Owl. The day, 29 January, was beautiful but frigid. In short order we found this owl atop a utility pole. The bird paid us little attention. We were able to approach relatively close, but we took pains not to disturb the bird.  I wonder if this bird is yawning, or if it is gagging on an owl pellet. Erika’s cats wander around the house gagging as they prepare to spit up hair balls—perhaps owls behave in a similar fashion.  In any case, I never observed any pellets falling from the owl and, for fear of disturbing the owl, we did not look under the pole for pellets. A study of pellets would indicate what these owls are eating (in southern Alberta, deer mice and voles constitute about 90% of their diet (Parmelee 1992)).
Perhaps one reason for the owl's tameness is that the bird appeared to be sound asleep. Once or twice the bird half-opened its eyes, but the owl seemed to be more concerned about a snow grader approaching down the road. The bird never flew, and we left before the arrival of the snow plow.

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