The bird in question, made famous as Hedwig in the Harry Potter series, is definitely a magnificent creature. Owl’s, with their bright eyes, and unique but also terrifying head rotating attribute, have featured in multiple Hollywood movies, specifically horror ones.
But these mysterious and intelligent birds have often roused curiosity among ornithologists and bird watchers due to their distinctiveness. Large scale research and documentation have been successful in providing insight into their nature and living.
As we learn more about them, one tends to ask questions. One commonly asked question is, do owls hibernate?
Do Owls Hibernate? – What about hibernation in owls?
Hibernation, as we know, is a seasonal practice that commonly occurs during the winter seasons. During winters, animals tend to fall into dormancy, a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression, to survive the harsh weather. In the case of owls, the answer to this question can be quite complex.
Different species classified as owls adhere to different types of habitats and adaptations. Some scientists suggest that Owls tend to hibernate during winter for survival when the prey is scarce. On the other hand, some believe that owls either adapt or migrate rather than hibernating during grave conditions, for example, Snowy Owls.
How Owls Adapt and Migrate Rather than Hibernate?
Snowy owls, as their name suggests, are as white as snow. This particular species of owl do not hibernate. They are well conditioned to the harsh cold weather. They have both adaptability and migrating tendencies.
During winters, their habitat, known as the arctic tundra, records a drastic fall in temperature. Even then, they adapt and fly during the morning, unlike the nightly orientation of owls, to easily catch prey. They possess a thick plumage, which helps them maintain their body heat and survive the cold.
As for migration, in extreme years, Snowy owls show irruptive migration that is from north to southern terrain, where the weather is considerably warm. Scientists have recorded large scale irruption by Snowy Owls resulting from global warming and lack of sufficient food.
Winter Adaptation by Barn Owls
Barn Owls are found in warmer and drier climatic locations. They are poorly insulated and require extra energy during winters to maintain the body heat. Their mortality rate during the winter is often high. However, rather than resorting to hibernation, they use coping strategies to survive the winter.
Their survival depends gravely on the abundance of prey. They, too (like Snowy Owls), sometimes hunt during the day, which happens when the owl is struggling to find enough food.
They change their nesting location during winters in search of warmth. They roost in a warm location to maintain their body heat. Also, during winter, they perch on higher locations to easily located their prey. Their acute senses, though help in finding the prey, but snow and rainfall can prevent them from doing so.
Owl Mortality rate in winter
The winters usually harm the mortality rate of owls. They succumb to the harsh weather, as the conditions have worsened due to climate change. The species of owls that do not hibernate suffer more at the hands of the cold weather.
These species, though, have adapted and gained resilience against the weather; there have been reports of large-scale deaths. The major reason has been to be starvation. Under hibernation, a minimal amount of sustenance can enable animals and birds to survive, but that is not possible for animals or birds that do not hibernate.
Whether it be the Great Horned, Great Gray Owls, or Snowy Owls, their death rates have increased tremendously over the past few years. Starvation happens especially when rain freezes on snow layers, and since owls prey on rodents who live underground, finding food is a challenge.
Not only has this, expanding human development and climate change impacted the hibernation and welfare of animals, including owls. The duration of the hibernation has been affected due to the warmer temperature resulting from global warming.
Furthermore, the increasing industrialization and deforestation are driving animals and birds away from their habitat, affecting their welfare. The human food subsidies like garbage, a consequence of human development, add toxicity to natural food, necessary for wildlife. These factors bring about changes to hibernation strategies, which has harmful implications.
How to Improve these Mortality Rates?
Owls are slowly becoming endangered due to inaction and brutality by humans. They are threatened due to their loss of habitat, lack of protection, and poaching. Governments must enforce protection laws as well as act vigilantly. A special habitat area must be demarcated not only for owls but also for other endangered species. If the present condition prevails, it won’t be long before owls are driven towards extinction.
At a root level, it will be beneficial if people help in feeding owls suffering from starvation. Bird watchers can also work together to help owls and improve their condition.
Also, the breeding of endangered species of owls will help in improving their population for good.
Wildlife is suffering immense challenges at the hand of humans. Hibernation is necessary for maintaining longevity among animals and birds like owls. Hibernation is a necessary survival practice against winter and harsh climate. Even if owls do or do not hibernate, what is important to consider is that they are being rigged of their instincts because of human oppression.
Lack of food, loss of habitat, poaching is grave crimes that are committed towards the wildlife. These crimes contribute to the endangerment of animals, which disrupts the very ecosystem of nature. This is not conducive for both humans and animals because it also disrupts the persistent food chain.
No doubt, as their intelligence precedes them, owls have adapted themselves to human activities and their consequences. However, their survival rates represent a mournful story and inadequacy on the part of humans.
Owls’ hibernation practice is researched widely, persisting even now. A lot is still left to learn about this diverse species, which will only be possible if we protect them from extinction.