If you’re like me, an unfamiliar place on a pitch dark night can be a little intimidating. Add to that a shrill cry, unseen and off in the distance, and the experience can be downright chilling.
Yet the night and the realm of shadows is the element of the Barn Owl; silent, secretive and deadly … at least if you’re a mouse. Howard, our Barn Owl, is no exception to this rule.
I was working with Howard today, doing the Bird Show, and as he was flying down to stage I talked about how quietly they can fly. They have soft feathers, fringed on the ends, so it muffles the sound he makes when flying. In effect it allows Howard to be almost completely silent; the perfect assassin, he can sneak up on his prey without them ever knowing he was there. Funnily enough he’s spooked me a couple of times, especially if he does an encore flight back out to stage without me expecting it.
So, Howard made one of these spontaneous encore loops today, and of course made me jump. It’s such a cool adaptation! Along with silent flight, Barn Owls can emit a very high, shrill call that’ll send tingles down your spine. Combined with the fact that Barn Owls can sometimes appear luminescent, it is no surprise that these birds have many different names, including Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Death Owl and Hobgoblin.
Touching on the supernatural, these creatures of the night are also believed to have inspired stories of myth and legend, like Banshees in Ireland, Will o Wisps in England and Min Min lights in Australia. Although none of this may not set you at ease on those eerie nights, it at least gives you something to consider the next time you hear something go bump in the night.
Bird Show Trainer, Brendan
Taronga Zoo, Media Relations
(02) 9978 4606
Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Media Relations
(02) 6881 1400
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