Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

How Sam the Screech Owl Can Swoop into Your Classroom

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

How Sam the Screech Owl Can Swoop into Your Classroom

Article excerpt

Byline: Beverly Fleming

Meet Sam the screech owl. Sam has lived with us for the past three years. He was hit by a car and taken to a St. Augustine veterinary clinic. Although the vet did everything he could, the shoulder that was broken was never completely restored. Although Sam can hop-fly, he would not be able to escape predators or successfully hunt for himself if released, so he needs a caretaker.

Sam is not a pet. In fact, it is against the law to even have an owl or other bird of prey in your possession. Therefore, I have to have federal and state permits to be a caretaker and to have him as an educational exhibit. I have to renew the state permit each year, and his cages and conditions are always subject to inspection by Florida wildlife officers. Most of the educational talks are given to schools, scouts and other young people, but Sam has also visited the Council On Aging seniors many times.

At home, this little owl lives in a large flight cage, but has a traveling cage when he goes to school or on field trips. He is still a wild animal and has the same instincts to defend himself when approached or touched. I have many scars and marks from his very sharp talons and beak even though I wear protective gloves most of the time.

Eastern screech owls are fairly common from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic coast. They will occupy almost any kind of habitat from deep woods to urban landscapes, and although they prefer to nest in cavities in trees they have adapted to living in man made nest boxes.

Screech owls generally mate for life. The female is slightly larger than the male. The owls are usually solitary except during mating and nesting season, which is in the cool months. The color of screech owls range from an almost solid gray to brown to a rust color. All color variations may occur within the same brood. Scientists believe this may occur so the fledglings will disperse into many habitats - gray-brown ones to oak hammocks and rust colored ones to Cedar woods, for example. …

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