Hoot! Hoot! Meet your neighborhood Birmingham owls

Great, honorable owlGreat, honorable owl. Photo via Greg Harber

A few months ago I received a request to write about the owls that live in the magical city. The expert I consulted was Anne Miller, founder of the Alabama Wildlife Center and the recent recipient of the Alabama Audubon Yellowhammer Award.

Anne is one of my favorite naturalists in Birmingham. In addition to her extensive knowledge of birds and wildlife, Anne is generous and kind-hearted. I really like talking to her about owls.

Babies and their parents

Anne MillerAnne with her niece Eva Ledvina. Photo by Matt Hunter

A little background about Anne and Owls.

When Anne ran the Alabama Wildlife Center in 1977, owls were her favorite.

She told me that her greatest achievement with owls was realizing the relationship between baby owls and their parents.

“I raised so many owls. It was exciting early on to raise these young owls in flight cages and bring them back into the wild. Over time, I realized that almost all of the baby owls we received (Alabama Wildlife Center) could be returned to their own parents. That became my most important contribution: developing methods for returning babies, who have been separated from their parents, to their parents. Usually nothing had happened to the parents – they were still around and wanted their babies back. “

Anne was recognized in the wildlife rehabilitation community nationwide for this discovery.

Meet Birmingham’s Owls

According to Anne, there are four types of owls in Birmingham that are common here. They are each significantly different. That’s how Anne described her.

Barn owlBarn owl. Photo by Greg Harber

Anne told me that barn owls were found in Birmingham along an old field habitat next to the railway lines. As is well known, they nested in the Sloss Furnace (obviously not in the oven). Urban and very rural birds, they are different from the other three species of owls in Birmingham in the way they catch their food.

“They are beautiful birds. They have long, broad wings and crisscross low over open area, falling a short distance to pick up a mouse in tall grass. The other owls are sitting and waiting bass hunters, where they hear the sound of prey moving – they fly down and pounce. The barn owl cruises across open land in search of prey. ”

Great, honorable owlGreat, honorable owl. Photo via Greg Harber

Anne calls the Great Horned Owl the 800-pound gorilla of the bird world. They are really big and heavy. They eat animals the size of skunks, and they have been known to take a small fox.

“You would think they were the loudest (owls), but they actually have a very low scream. The buddies answer. Usually there is a dialogue between the owls. The female voice is a little higher. They always sound like they’re telling secrets. “

Typically, great horned owls like highlands and open spaces with large trees, but they can also be found at lower elevations.

Barred OwlBarred Owl. Photo via Greg Harber

Barred Owls are very noisy and if you visit the forest regularly you have heard their screams – “Who’s cooking for you? Who is cooking for you all?

Smaller than a great horned owl and yes sometimes eaten by them, likes to be near water. It’s a bird from the hardwood floor.

“They’re common here at Shades Creek, Homewood, and Mountain Brook. They start nesting in February so they should start vocalizing from that month. “

Eastern Screech OwlEastern Screech Owl. Photo via Greg Harber

The screech owl is Birmingham’s smallest owl, standing approximately 5-6 inches tall. Your voice has a trembling sound. According to Anne, in her opinion, they don’t adapt to city life like the other owls. They tend to live on the outer edges of urban areas that are not as developed.

“You are secret.”

First, learn how to watch birds

Whitney ByingtonWatching birds. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

If you’re interested in owls and other birds in the Birmingham area, you can learn the craft by taking bird watching classes in Alabama Audubon. On Tuesday, February 16, at 6:00 pm, there will be a virtual “Introduction to the Bird Watching Class” in the Hoover Library.

Here are the details.

Anne recommends that people learn how to watch birds, take a field trip to Audubon Alabama, and learn how to make their own yard bird-friendly rather than venturing into the woods in search of owls.

“We don’t need people to disturb the owls. We don’t recommend looking for them. I’m a lifelong wildlife rehabilitator – so I’m on the animal’s side, ”Anne concluded.

Good advice.

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  • Pat Byington

    Longtime conservationist. Former executive director of the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Editor of Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in creating Alabama’s Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preserving special places throughout the east through the Wilderness Society, and strengthening (exacerbating) cancer in Alabama Risk and Mercury Standards.

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