Saturday, June 10, 2006

One Hot Owl!

Now that it's warm out again, Alice reveals just how spoiled she is. She pants anytime it gets above 74 degrees Farenheit. How do I know this so precisely? Because I keep the air conditioning at the nature center set at 75, and Alice starts panting just about the time the air conditioning kicks in. How lame is that??

Owls don't sweat. They pant when they get hot. And the big gular sac that puffs out when a Great Horned Owls hoots (just like a frog) pulses in and out when they pant. This is formally known as "gular fluttering." It comes off kind of funny since the back of their tongues are attached basically to the top of the gular sac, so when they pant, their tongue flops up and down. Kids love it.

But when REALLY hot, Alice does more than just pant. She assumes an odd body posture with her plumage compressed and wings drooped (even her good one), exposing her "wing pits" and her legs. It looks weird since normally you don't see Great Horned Owl legs or the insides of their wings when they are just standing there.

The upstairs of our house (where Alice hangs out) is always warmer than downstairs. And Alice is exceedingly out of shape. So when she eats and it's warmer than usual upstairs, she has to take breaks to cool off. That's what she's doing in the photo--hence the bit of gopher on her bill and odd expression on her face (she just took a little bitty princess bite and hasn't swallowed yet, and she closes her eyes when she takes a bite.)

Our hot owl is also into full molt. She lost THREE tail feathers in ONE DAY! Right now she is missing her four middle tail feathers, so she now has a forked tail. Kinda funny. Last year she was missing nearly all of her tail feathers at once, so we called her "stubby." She might be heading in that direction again this year.

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