You haven’t seen this in 100 years, but this Valentine’s Day, if you live in Superior, Horicon, Stevens Point or anywhere in Portage County, Wisconsin, you can see the courtship of the century. This event is generally observed north of our borders, but this year, Wisconsinites can look to the skies to see the male doing his aerial acrobatic act to charm his lover- to- be. He hopes his pick- up act will land him a sweetheart, and the romantic Valentine dinner can commence. If she seems interested, he approaches her, cautiously, holding his food offering in his beak. At last their first touch, as the delicious tidbit is passed with both he and she closing their eyes to savor the moment. The kiss of the century begins the courtship in earnest.
This midwinter, courting is a special treat for Wisconsin, as the Great Grey Owls have wandered south this year, in search of mini-mammals, and in particular, the vole. It’s been a 100 years since this occurred, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Native to Canada, the owls are flocking south in great numbers in search of food. As of the middle of January, at least 100 were spotted in the Badger State. Listen for the booming voice of this massive creature with a five-foot wingspan. The one loud hoot will be accompanied by several softer notes. The owls search for food late in the afternoon and early morning; they perch, watch and listen, hunting by sound for the scurry of a mouse or the crunch of ice-covered snow made by an unsuspecting mole or vole. A well-fed Great Grey Owl can easily live to be 40 years of age.
They rarely travel more than 20 feet off the ground, due to their large bulk, and you can find them perched in trees and shrubs. Look for those wolf-like piercing yellow eyes, a face with concentric dark grey and white rings and the large white patch of feathers under the throat. All the feathers make for fantastic heat insulation, and weather below zero Fahrenheit is no problem for the Phantom of the North, a nickname for the largest owl in the world.
This is our year to enjoy this special Valentine treat, Wisconsinites! Savor a sighting, but know we need to be aware of the owl’s presence while driving, as there have been numerous car/owl collisions reported as the birds swoop down to capture prey. The owls find our moving vehicles foreign and are not “car saavy”, so watch, look and listen-----for owls!
A special thanks to the author of "Cupid's Arrow Strikes in the Wilds of Wisconsin", Julie Wesson. One of Julie's New Year Resolutions for 2005 was to make the world a better place for Wildlife.