From Sharon . . .

Still considered to be “nestlings,” Barn Owl Ambassadors Little Guy and Jolley have begun visiting schools, bringing exciting information to kids about their species. The barn owl is one very incredible bird. They are so unique, and are separated from the “typical owls”. Barn owls do not HOOT, their call is more of a low HISSSS and they make a variety of vocalizations, which would cause an eyebrow to raise along with this thought: “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MAKING THAT SOUND?”

Such strange “barn owl speak,” has given them an unfair reputation. “Evil” and “Bird of Death” are commonly attached to the barn owl profile in Belize. In the book, If Di Pin NeVa Ben, Folktales and Legends of Belize, the barn owl, or “Soch,” has this written to describe it: “The Soch is a diabolical bird. You know that it is near when you hear that terrible sound: “GUACH!!”….when you hear that horrible sound over your house at night, you know someone is going to die”.

The call of the barn owl may indicate something indeed is going to die, however, the doomed is not a person, but a RAT! Barn owls eat more rats than any other animal on the planet. Years ago, our Animal Management Supervisor, Tony Garel, would visit barn owl roosts and collect their food pellets. By doing this, Tony could see just what the owls were feasting upon. 100 percent of their casted pellets consisted of the same prey: Charlie Price! They have excellent vision, both for day and night time, and are on a constant hunt for a juicy rat to feast upon.

Unlike the typical owls, the barn owl will roost in groups. In Belize, they are found in the rafters of old buildings, holes in trees, and quiet, tucked away places. They are found all over the world, except for desert and arctic regions. In many places, barn owls are becoming extremely rare. It has been noted that they are likely to be gone forever in England within 10 years. In parts of their United States range, they are undergoing a serious decline. Barn owl ambassadors Little Guy and Jolley want to change the way people in Belize feel about their species. Mr. Max Torres in Orange Walk, rescued Little Guy and Jolley, after they had been discovered in the rafters of a building. Instead of being killed, the owl babies were given to the zoo. Zoo Director and owl fan, Sharon Matola, quickly saw that the Barn Owl Ambassador program quickly took shape.

Little Guy and Jolley have already made star performances at Hummingbird Elementary School in Belize City. They make weekly calls to La Democracia pre school, where the students closely monitor their growth and sing to them their “barn owl song.” Each week, the pre-schoolers learn a new fact about their barn owl buddies. Little Guy and Jolley are excellent barn owl ambassadors, and will see that their exquisite species will attain an owl profile so very well-deserved: The barn owl is a special treasure for Belize. Protect them !

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