BLM delivers owl message to Youth Mentoring Program

From St. Mary to St. Marie, Central Montana’s owls appear in American Indian stories as messengers of important news.

Bureau of Land Management Lewistown Field Office Wildlife Biologist Andy Oestreich delivered a message of scientific information about owls during his presentation to the Central Montana Youth Mentoring Program.

Elementary school students and their high school mentors learned about identifying characteristics unique to a number of the elusive raptors. Oestreich played sound bites of hoots and screeches to attentive ears, while displaying pictures of the creatures in flight, perched and nesting.

The multi-media presentation also included a BBC Two-produced video “The silent flight of an owl,” demonstrating the near absolute silence by which a Barn Owl can close the distance to its prey. Specially designed ridges on owl feathers allow the predators to move through the air at a decibel just above that of a shadow.

Oestreich’s lesson included information unique to several owls. A Short Eared Owl fitted with a GPS tracking collar in Alaska was found about 2,000 miles south in the middle of Montana. The Great Gray, Montana’s largest owl, has a bulls-eye shaped face framed by a stately five-feet wingspan. At the other end of the size spectrum is the Northern Saw-whet Owl, which may move into birdhouses with three-inch diameter holes. Known for their terror-invoking night shrill, the Eastern Screech Owl may appear with well-camouflaged gray feathers or, like humanity’s precious redheads, in more rare instances boast auburn plumage.

Oestreich’s presentation also included information regarding Great Horned, Snowy, Barn, Burrowing, and Long Eared Owls.

Educating youth to become wise stewards of America’s natural resources is an important priority for the BLM.

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