Children and families were in awe Wednesday, July 3, at the Yelm Timberland Library as they got up close and learned about six unique nocturnal birds during the Owls of the Pacific Northwest event.
The summer library program played host to Claudia and David Supensky, the directors of For Heaven’s Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, a Rochester-based nonprofit. The duo taught a roomful of attendees, mostly children, all about their six owls, their diets and where they can be found.
“I really enjoy giving people an opportunity to see owls and the different kinds, because they wouldn’t see them in the wild,” Claudia Supensky said.
Many of the owls shown were elusive in nature, and while they were all residents of the Pacific Northwest, not many people are familiar with each species. This was an opportunity for students of any age to see for themselves the different types of owls.
Each wide-eyed bird had their own disability and a unique story of how they came into the loving arms of For Heaven’s Sake. Leo, the long eared owl, for example, lost one of his wings and was found on a logging road by rescuers.
After a trip to the veterinarian, doctors determined that Leo wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and that he would need assistance.
“Because he’s missing a wing, in the winter time we keep some heat in an enclosure because their wings are what holds in the body temperature and heat,” Claudia Supensky said.
Boots, For Heaven’s Sake’s resident great horned owl, is completely blind in one eye and missing the tip off of one of his wings.
“Most of the time when owls are injured, it’s because of being hit by a car,” Claudia Supensky said.
Diets are consistent for most owls — from the tiniest saw-whet to the lankiest barn owl, most consume a variation of small rodents and other birds. A full grown great horned owl can eat up to four frozen mice a day, Claudia Supensky said.
For Heaven’s Sake has operated out of Rochester for about 12 years now and they house eight owls, David Supensky said. Because the nonprofit uses the owls for educational purposes, they’re allowed by state law to keep them.
David Supensky said the mission is to keep the owls in a loving home and keep them alive. Using them for education helps them do that.
“It’s a good thing to show people an animal they wouldn’t see every day,” he said. “I feed them every night … You get kind of attached to them.”
Although parents and families weren’t able to touch the nocturnal creatures, they were able to get up close to them and see the different variations between species.
Amy Beasley, 38, of Yelm, brought her two kids, 8-year-old Ayla and 13-year-old Jayden. She said she enjoyed the program and thought it was very fun for her children.
Ayla gave a thumbs up and said her favorite owl was the saw-whet owl — one of the small, densely-feathered birds whose compact demeanor and face is reminiscent of a cat-shaped dirty snowball.
Beasley said her family has been coming to the Yelm library’s summer library programs for roughly 10 years. They’re hoping to attend more because it keeps the kids busy and helps keep their brains running during the summer.
“We try to make as many shows as we can,” she said.
About the Owls
“Whetney,” the Northern Saw-Whet Owl
One of the smaller species of owl, “Whetney” the northern saw-whet owl eats about one mouse a day. About the size of a robin, these owls are primarily brown with white-spotted faces. These small owls are fierce little hunters that often catch prey larger than themselves. They sometimes hunt during the day.
“Cruiser,” the Western Screech Owl
Western screech owls, like Cruiser, don’t mind a messy nest and will set up camp just about anywhere. These types of owls will lay anywhere from two to seven eggs. In addition to their airy, short hoots, these owls screech during their mating ritual.
“Leo,” the Long Eared Owl
Long eared owls, like Leo, are found mostly in eastern Washington, although some sightings have been reported in western Washington. Sightings of long eared owls are also few and far between. During the winter months, many will gather together and huddle during sleep.
“Ricky,” the Barn Owl
Barn owls live all around the world and are some of the most recognizable birds because of their frequent sightings. Ricky developed a bone infection in his legs and couldn’t stand up. Problems catching prey ensued and he soon found a home at FHS. They like to hunt in open fields and can live up to 15 years.
“Boots,” the Great Horned Owl
Arguably the most frequently sighted owl, the great horned owl, nicknamed the “Tigers of the Sky,” can pick up just about anything. Great horned owls, like Boots, can be found all across the Americas and can live up to 30 years. These owls tend to lazily stalk prey from a perch.
“Bedo,” the Barred Owl
Bedo the barred owl lets out one of the loudest “hoots” you’ll ever hear. This species of owl can live up to 25 years and often gets mistaken for a spotted owl. Barred owls have one of the nicest temperaments and sometimes even enjoy being pet.