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What Makes Owls So Special?

EVT 490
Nov 30
7:30 pm
Cubberley Auditorium, School of Education
Status: No Registration Required
Are owls really wise? The seductive blink of their eyes and slow turn of their heads certainly suggest deliberation and purpose. Wisdom, however, is hardly an attribute of these efficient killing machines. Rather, an owl is an incredible composite of exquisitely tuned sensors, combined with great muscular strength and an aggressiveness that we would call courage. The large head is mostly occupied with an extraordinary hearing apparatus and outsized eyes that leave little room for a fairly modest brain.

Why do aeronautical engineers study owls? How can owls catch something as small as a mouse in complete darkness? And why that peculiar snakecharmer’s movement when confronted with something new? Most owls are highly vocal, and many have a rich vocabulary; but why do some throw their voices so skillfully? Their near-perfect camouflage gives us a clue. To deceive predators, owls seem to wax creative: The burrowing owl emits the buzz of a rattlesnake from its earthen burrow, and the snowy owl drops out of the sky, as if shot, to lead a predator away from its nest. It is widely known that some owls are expert mousers, but some species feed exclusively on fish caught at night; others eat smaller owls, and still others pursue only insects. So what else makes owls so special? Nearly everything! And in his fascinating talk about this unique, intelligent bird, acclaimed naturalist Hans Peeters will introduce us to some of the secrets behind the surprising abilities of the owl.

Hans Peeters, Professor of Biology, Zoology, and Ecology, Emeritus, Chabot College; Author; Artist

Hans Peeters is an ornithologist, painter, and naturalist. He completed his graduate studies at UC Berkeley, then taught biology, zoology, and ecology for thirty-seven years. He is the author of Mammals of California, Raptors of California, and Field Guide to Owls of California and the West. He has contributed illustrations for several field guides to North American birds and Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide.
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