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Owls Are Different

How are owls different from other birds? They evolved to hunt at night and because of this they have large areas of their brain just for sight and for hearing. Owls’ eyes face forward unlike most birds. Notice their faces are round like humans. They have special edges on their wings so that they make no noise when they fly unlike all other species of birds. They eat prey whole and then regurgitate what are called pellets that contain the bones and fur or other parts of their prey that cannot be digested. They appropriate often the nests of other birds and do not build their own nests. Read Jennifer Ackerman’s book, What the Owl knows to learn much more. There are interviews with her on YouTube that are also enlightening.
If you want to see owls one of your best chances is to go on an evening night walk led by an experienced bird leader. North Shore Audubon Society offers one on Tuesday, April 23, at Garvies Point Museum and Preserve. Your can check their website or NorthShoreaudubon.org for the time. Also Sands point Preserve and Science Museum of Long Island both offer Owl Prowls.
Otherwise you won’t find locations of owls widely listed because of the fear that people might harass them during the day. I could usually find a snowy owl at Jones Beach, West End 2, by locating the photographers gathered by the dunes. I have seen the photographers get too close and cause the bird to fly away. eBird, the listing app run by Cornell Lab, will not show the locations of owls in real time or even later with some species.. I tried to find the locations for barn owls and eBird does not post any on Long Island though I know there are two owl houses occupied at Jamaica Wildlife Refuge.
Most likely the owls you will see and hear in this area are great horned owls and Eastern screech owls. At dawn and dusk I hear great-horned owls frequently from my house during their breeding season which is over by April. Last December I went with friends to Guggenheim Preserve to hear Eastern screech owls calling at night. Saw whet owls can be found in this area with great difficulty in the winter in evergreen trees. I have seen only one in my 20 years of birding. Snowy owls inhabit the sand dunes in winter and there are barn owls at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
To see breeding owls you need to find their nests. In the past there were great-horned owl nests along the the Meadowbrook and Wantaugh parkways on the way to Jones Beach. In the past there was one at Sands point Preserve. Since Owls do not build their own nests, they use abandoned large nests or parts of large trees. Or some use owl boxes. For years Jim Jones installed large bowls in trees, most recently at Bethpage State Park with the help of electric company trucks.
There are many other species of owls that live in other parts of North America and around the World. I have listed the few that live or visit this area. It’s important to mention that owls worldwide face many challenges leading to a large decrease in their populations from habitat loss and climate change.

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