Good-bye to an Old Friend: Otus

In the
early spring of 2009, the Raptor Center's educational team suffered a great loss when volunteers discovered that Otus the Eastern Screech-Owl had passed away in her loft flight cage. Since 2002, Otus had delighted tens of thousands of audience members, especially young children. But folks young and old would comment on her “cuteness” and ask if she was a baby owl.

While Otus's official cause of death remains a mystery, she was not underweight and had not exhibited any obvious signs of distress or illness. She could have simply died of old age.

Scientists think that the lifespan of an Eastern Screech-Owl is typically 7-10 years; since Otus was an adult owl when she came to us in 2002, we know she was at least eight years old — and therefore a senior citizen screech-owl!

We will miss Otus, but we will never forget the joy she brought to so many.



Otus is a grey-phase Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio). She came to the Raptor Center in the Fall of 2002 as an adult bird. Otus is a small owl, only weighing about six ounces. She suffered head trauma and an injured left eye after colliding with a vehicle. We had initially hoped her eye would clear and her vision would return to normal. Unfortunately that hasn't happened, and the decision was finally made to keep her as part of our educational team. Otus has adapted quite well to life as an education bird, and made her public debut in March of 2003.

 

Eastern Screech-Owls come in two color phases, grey and red (rufous). Scientists are unsure what causes the color differences, and we rehabilitate about an equal number of each at the Raptor Center. Found in West Virginia and throughout most of the eastern United States year round, Eastern Screech-Owls are our most common patient. They have adapted better than some other species to living near humans--even Central Park in New York City has a thriving Eastern Screech-Owl population!

Screech-Owls will nest in tree cavities as well as artificial nest boxes. In the wild, their prey is quite varied and includes mice, moles, chipmunks, bats, small songbirds, snakes, salamanders, and insects. Eastern Screech-Owls may themselves become prey for larger owls, like the Great Horned Owls.

(Recently, the American Ornithologists Union reclassified the Eastern Screech-Owl from Otus asio to Megascops asio. Maybe we should change Otus's name to "Mega"!)

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Otus's Image Gallery:

Otus at the WV State Capitol
Otus meets students

Otus and volunteer Shannon

Otus and volunteer Beth
Otus flaps her wings
Otus in the loft
Otus makes a friend
Otus up close

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