Every once in a while you stumble across an interesting email in an inbox that is so cluttered and full it is overwhelming.
One particular day, this happened to me. At first I dismissed it as silly, but I kept coming back to it, intrigued.
“Owl quiz,” it was titled, followed by “Whooo are you?”
It immediately brought to mind Pete Townshend, the leader and co-founder of The Who, one of the most popular and influential rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s.
“Who Are You” was the theme song of the popular “CSI” crime drama and a mainstay as I was growing up. I mean, who doesn’t like The Who?
But this was about owls.
The missive was short and sweet from the National Audubon Society. There are 200 species of owls around the world. Nineteen exist in North America. Upon further research, Utah is home to at least 13 species that breed in Utah and an estimated 18 species that pass through.
In just a few minutes, if I took the quiz, I could find out which owl matches my personality.
It read: “Although owls can look similar, their personalities are as different as night and day.”
I decided to swoop in and take the bait.
Turns out I am a snowy owl, which has a residency that includes Utah.
“You’re mysterious and elusive, spreading fascination and a little bit of awe everywhere you show up.”
I am not so sure about that. But the snowy owl does have its appeal. It shows up in large numbers at times in the winter below the Canadian border and is a powerful raptor.
Its wingspan is 4 to 5 feet, stands more than 2 feet tall and has a keen sense of hearing and eyesight. My eyesight, coincidentally, improved greatly after cataract surgery but I am still pretty sure I could not spot a field mouse if I were perched high in a tree. Snowy owls are also the largest North American owl by weight, typically 4 pounds. Let’s not talk about that. More time at the gym for me.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the snowy owl, unlike most of its relatives, is diurnal because of its Arctic habitat that forces it to hunt by day. That’s fine by me. I am not a night owl at all.
Utah is also home to the great horned owl, the barn owl, the boreal owl, the great gray owl and the burrowing owl, among others.
Owls, however, like other raptors, are facing serious trouble due to habitat fragmentation and disease.
The Deseret News wrote about the struggles of golden eagles and the efforts of HawkWatch International to document those challenges and help save them. Spenser Heaps, deputy director of photography for the Deseret News, described in a compelling and stunning narrative how he dangled off the edge of a cliff to get the photos he captured. I simply could not do it, because even if I am a snowy owl, I am afraid of heights. Strange.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is heavily invested in making sure Utah’s raptors are safe, accounted for and living their best life.
Russell Norvell, avian conservation program coordinator for the agency, said there are five owl species of conservation concern in Utah.
Owls are fascinating, he added, because of their evolutionary design. They are typically night creatures and can map sounds three dimensionally. Not much is known about a lot of them because they are so tough to document, and yes, elusive like the snowy owl and me, apparently.
He spoke of one owl, the Northern saw-whet owl that can take down prey its own size.
“It’s pretty fierce,” he said. “Even a mountain lion can’t do that.”
In 2019, Crystal Ross, who worked for wildlife resources at the time, wrote an article about banding burrowing owls in western Utah. Owls are her thing.
Her remarks after being invited to tag along with biologists?
“(It was a) delightful experience that made me giddier than my wedding day.”
As an aside, I had my husband take the quiz. Turns out he is a snowy owl as well. Birds of a feather ...