It has been documented that an Eurasian Owl has lived for more than 60 years in captivity, where it receives the best of care and is free from the predators of its natural habitat.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is the largest species of owl in the world. However, it has all the adaptations that other owls such as the Great Horned Owl or the Screech Owl have. Owls are easily recognized from other birds of prey. They typically have large heads with outstanding facial disks, which helps to funnel sound to their ears. These ears are of unequal size, and are spaced to enable the owl to locate sound. This enables the owl to zero in on prey without visually locating it. They are far sighted. This is due to the fact that their eyes are set into the ring of bone in their skull that squeezes the eyeball, effectively turning it into a telescope. This makes better use of even the smallest amount of light. However, because of this the owl is unable to rotate its eyes and therefore rotates its head approximately 270 degrees for full vision. Eagle owls also have excellent day vision and are able to stare into direct sunlight. The opaque nicitating membrane, that all birds of prey have; protects their eyes. This enables them to hunt during the day, which is very important during the breeding season when they are pressed to feed their fast growing young in the nest.
Although measurements are given to demonstrate the size of the eagle owl, it must be remembered that these sizes do vary a great deal among individuals. It has to be noted that the female of this particular species is always approximately one third larger than the male. The height of the eagle owl can be anywhere from 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall, while the wingspan is approximately 5 1/2 feet wide, again depending on the individual. The weight of the male can vary from 4 to 5 1/2 pounds, while a large female can weigh close to 7 pounds.
The crop is absent. The food goes directly to their stomach in the lower part of the body. This is beneficial because of the amount of food an eagle owl can consume at one time. Just imagine how the owl would fly with a huge crop weighing down the forward part of its body during takeoff. The sight of this would boggle the imagination. Nature has designed each creature uniquely for the role it plays in its life. When man interferes with a species or its environment he does irreparable damage. No wonder so many species are sliding into extinction today!
The coloration of the eagle owl is variable depending on which subspecies being described. In general the ground color of an individual feather from this owl species appears to be a rich fawn color interspersed with dark brown stripes. In viewing the bird from a distance the color appears to be reddish brown with black bars.
The facial half-disk is finely marked, and on some specimens there are white markings on the throat. The eyes of the eagle owl are most outstanding in their size and brilliant orange hue.
The beak is black and very prominent. The toes, which are feathered; are very long and powerful. The talons, which are larger than a leopards claws; are black. All owls have the ability to reverse the fourth digit on its foot so that the talon either points forward or backwards as needed. This characteristic is known as being zygodactile.
Like the Great Horned Owl, it also has ear tufts. These are neither tufts nor horns, but rather feathers that the owl is able to control. It could be guessed that it is the owl’s mechanism for making it appear more menacing, and helps to break up the outline of the head for camouflaging purposes.
Eagle Owls are very vocal owls. During courtship, it is possible to determine which owl of the two has hooted. The male has a very deep hoot, while the female returns the calls with a very melodious, higher pitched sound. They use many sounds to communicate with each other and their young, from beak clacking to chirps and clicks. When menaced, they hiss loudly and puff out their feathers to increase their size.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is an old world owl found in all parts of Europe and the Middle east, as well as on the African continent. It is a very hardy owl able to breed in the arid Sahara and Arabian deserts, the jungles of equatorial Africa, as well as in the northern reaches of Siberia. When possible, the Eagle Owl prefers to nest near woodlands with level land and tree lined waterways.
In the wild, the eagle owl is an opportunistic hunter and feeds on mice, rats, rabbit, squirrels, and birds. It will take any prey that is not larger than itself. It has been said that they are able to take a small roe deer when the occasion arises. Since birds do not have a sense of smell, they are not adverse to also consuming skunks for food. The eagle owl swallows its food whole, whenever possible; ingesting fur or feathers, bone and meat. It then regurgitates a pellet discarding what its body does not require.
The eagle owl nests in late January or early February. Their clutch of eggs usually consists of from one to four, depending on the amount of food available. The male is very attentive to the female, bringing all the food that is necessary; while the female tends the nest, sitting very close on the eggs and the young. Most females are so conscientious that they do not leave the nest until the young have grown to a good size. Despite the fact that the male appears as though he is interested in seeing the young, the female feeds her young beneath her breast feathers until the young are large enough. In many cases the male first sees them when they fall out of the nest due to their large size. This presents no problem to the parents who manage to take care of the feeding of the young on the ground, while keeping predators at bay. It has been rumored in bird lore that even a bear will give a wide berth to an eagle owl.
We have been very successful in breeding eagle owls at the Centre. In fact, eagle owls were the very first young that we had, and we have been blessed with their breeding ever since. Starting in the late 1980’s, the Centre has supplied Eagle Owls to several zoos in North America. This includes the Buffalo Zoo in New York State, and the Oklahoma City Zoo in Oklahoma, to mention a few. Most recently, a breeding pair of our Eurasian Eagle Owls was sent to South Korea, to the Daejeon Zoo, which is a sister zoo to the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada.
As with most animals that were in abundance in their natural habitat prior to man's encroachment on their territory, the Eurasian Eagle Owl has found itself being added to the endangered list. This is the result of man's irresponsible hunting and careless use of their environment.
If you have found an injured bird of prey (hawk, falcon, owl, etc.), contact the Centre and our experienced staff can assist in determining what steps should be taken to ensure the bird receives the best possible care.
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