ARTISTS AND BIRDS
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"Bird-Brained"

Flammulated Owl

    Have you ever been soooo tired that you were only willing to use half your brain? Soooo sleepy, and yet afraid to go to sleep? Soooo worn out from the activity you are involved in, which you must continue, that you just cannot sleep? Have you ever been soooo cold that you couldn’t get warm enough to drop off to sleep? What do you do? Take a look at some feathered professionals that deal with these problems every day.

    The professionals are birds, of course. When they pack up to go on a long trip they have no suitcase, no hands to carry one either. When they are hungry, there are no Albertsons, Smiths, or Harmons to stop at for groceries. When they are out of gas.... they are really out of gas, and have to get some kind of nourishment and rest before owlproceeding. When they are cold, they have no warm jackets, hoods, or mittens to keep them warm. Birds do it all with only the feathers on their back and good survival practices. They are survivors and have been gifted with survival skills from the beginning of time.

    Cool Stuff: Hummingbirds respond to cold weather by entering torpor (short-term hibernation) which requires one-fiftieth of its waking energy level. Winter Wrens usually sleep alone, but on cold wintery nights they will call others to gather for the night, to snuggle, fluff, and mingle their feathers so the group can share body heat. How much sleep do birds need? Sleep varies with the season and the task at hand. Studies have documented that birds possess the ability to sleep in a way that allows half of their brain to rest while the other half remains conscious. White-crowned Sparrows who migrate 2,600 miles restrict their sleep by two-thirds during migration. Sooty Terns sleep on the wing while migrating, taking repeated naps lasting only a second or two. Marine birds doze as they bob on the waves. Other birds float the night away on lakes and coastal waters. Heavy birds like Wild Turkeys fly into a forest canopy to be above any predator that would come their way during the night. All these special skills, and more, makes it possible for birds to get the sleep they need.

    Feathers are one of the birds survival secrets. Old feathers are replaced before winter sets in. Avid preening spreads the needed oil over the surface of the feathers to make them waterproof. With sleek oiled outer feathers to repel rain; trimmed and smoothed feathers to rebuff the wind; with downy feathers to insulate from cold.... birds are ready.... they will survive!

    The Flammulated Owl is one of the most migratory owls in North America. It completely leaves the western United States for Central Mexico and on to Guatemala each year. Traveling this far requires a lot of survival skills. Each year the Flammulated Owls return to the same nest. If a mate is lost, the remaining Owl will form new bonds with another mature mate to take its place. The Flammulated Owl has a life span of more than 8 years, longer than most. It is a survivor.  This Owl is a great example of using learned skills to keep its numbers up.  You may never see this Owl because they are nocturnal. But, if you hear a call in the night... "boot", "boot"... you may be able to find one sleeping in the daytime with one eye open, and one eye closed. 

Mary Feezer is the artist for this small, Flammulated Owl. Like the Owl, Mary is into migration, for she spends her summers in the cool reaches of Wyoming and her winters in balmy St. George. Thank you Mary for sharing your work with us.  -- Marilyn Davis


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