Right now there is a trend in “owl-love”. People think they’re so cute and decorate everything from paper-products, to clothes, to wall art with rather cartoony looking owls. Is there anything wrong with that – NO!
Owls definitely are super cute, but they are so much more than just fluffy balls of feathers. They are important parts of our ecosystem and food web.
These nighttime raptors are Apex Predators. This means that not only do they eat animals lower on the food chain, but they also eat other predators, such as insect-eating birds, weasels, bats, and shrews. Owls themselves are predated upon by almost nothing. They die from natural (or man-made) causes.
Rodents – one of the main food sources of owls – can cause many problems. They can get into our houses (I have a mouse in my walls that I’ve named Fievel), eat our food, and spread diseases. Amazingly enough, one Barn Owl can eat up to 1,000 rodents each year! Imagine a whole population (over 1,000 Barn Owls have been banded in PA) not playing their part – that’s a whole bunch of rodents running around that we wouldn’t have had otherwise! By eating mice, rats, and other rodents, owls are helping to decrease some of the negative impacts that these pest species can have on humans.
Not only can owls help to reduce problems for humans, but they can also reduce problems (specifically those of the genetic kind) in their prey populations. By eating animals that are too slow or weak to evade capture, the owls are getting rid of the “weakest-links.” This can help to ensure that overall prey population is healthy and strong.
While we may not see these nocturnal raptors often, we can definitely appreciate the benefits that they have on our ecosystem!
Do you need more of these elusive species in your life? I don’t blame you! Add any of these photos to your collection today.
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