About a month ago, CBC London associate producer Ryan Soulliere discovered three long-eared owls roosting in his backyard tree in east London, Ont. The birds stay together in the tree during the day and fly off at about dusk to forage and hunt at night.
"I think these are fledglings," said Brendon Samuels, a biology PhD candidate at Western University who stopped by Soulliere's backyard to check them out for himself.
"They're probably coming from the same clutch of one family," he explained. "These birds are still kind of learning the ropes of what it means to be an owl. I imagine sometime in the next few weeks, these guys will depart and they'll look to establish their own territories."
Samuels, who is also the coordinator for the research organization London Bird Team, said while long-eared owls aren't rare, they're certainly not as common as screech owls or great horned owls.
A mature long-eared owl will grow to be up to 40 cm tall, with a wingspan of up to one metre.
"This is a really important habitat for these birds because there's so much food for them here," said Samuels. "In the wintertime, they tend to aggregate in urban areas like London because there's a higher concentration of their food here, especially near the river."
The birds prey on small rodents, such as voles, but can't digest bones or fur.
"So the owl will remove what it can from a morsel of food, and then it produces this pellet," said Samuels. According to Soulliere, who was nearly struck by one, the owls unceremoniously regurgitate the pellet after they eat.
How we can help urban owls
- If they're in your backyard, turn off outside lights to assist their ability to hunt
- Don't use rat poison to deal with a rodent problem. Owls often get sick from eating poisoned rodents.
- Don't throw out that banana peel when driving. It attracts an owl's prey to the road and owls are often hit
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