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Owls dine on cicadas

Mark Dreiling of Bartlesville shares some unusual owl feeding habits with us.  He reports  two Great Horned Owls have been dining on emerging cicadas in his back yard for the past six years.  They show up at dusk when the cicadas begin their annual emergence.  Usually around 01 June and remain through August.  Mark pays attention and notes that their appearance happens more precisely when the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees and that was this past week.

The owls arrive about dark and walk around on the lawn dining on the emerging cicadas.  Mark has left a six-foot tree stump at the rear of his property because it is one of the owls favorite perching places.  He says “They always come from the same direction out of the woods and at about 15 minutes before dusk (8:45 PM, typically).  Over the summer, I think the error in timing is +/- 5 minutes.  There are outliers to 30 minutes.”  What a show of nature to have in your back yard!

Apparently Mark has prime cicada habitat which draws the owls.  He mows beyond his property line and the mowed area must provide ‘easy pickins’ for the owls underneath  pecan, ash, hackberry and cottonwood trees. Last year a juvenile accompanied them and Mark has pics of him as well.  While we don’t normally think of owls eating cicadas, I’ve found that most carnivores are not picky about what they eat and will readily pick any ‘low-hanging fruit’ nature provides.  (That thought was in my mind last week when I had a 500-pound black bear approach within 20 meters while I was photographing him.)

Dreiling adds “I sometimes clip the wings of cicadas and distribute them about the yard (to impress kids who want to see the owls) and they will find all of them – right up to the window where we are watching…

They become used to my presence and will go about their activities while I am sitting in plain sight on the patio or upper yard. The  camera flash  has no effect on them.  They are clearly aware of my presence since I get many pictures of them looking directly at the camera.”
Thank you, Mark for sharing this wonderful experience with your fellow Oklahoma nature devotees.  You can see more of Dreiling’s dramatic owl action shots at http://www.pbase.com/m3ling/owls  .
Don’t forget to check out our Oklahoma Nature Pics flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/groups/1941297@N20/ .  Upload some of your favorite nature pics and share them.
Click on photos to enlarge.
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