Owls Congregate in Mishmar HaEmek Forest

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 10:27 AM

Long-eared owls spotted for the first time in Mishmar HaEmek Forest.

Long-eared owl in Mishmar HaEmek Forest.
Photo: Yossi Eshbol

For the first time, long-eared owls (Asio otus) have been observed congregating on pine trees in Mishmar HaEmek Forest, which is part of Ramot Menashe Park in Northern Israel.

While on their rounds in the woodland, KKL-JNF foresters were treated to a rare and splendid sight: a whole flock of owls perched in the pine trees, where they would appear to have spent the winter.

Owl congregations such as this are a recognized phenomenon in the winter months. Very soon, however, as the nesting season approaches, the flock will divide up into breeding pairs.

The picture to the right is extremely unusual, as owls are generally active at night; photographing them in daytime is a rare achievement.

KKL-JNF Chief Scientist Dr. Omri Boneh explained: “We assume that the owls chose this spot because the forest is mature and the tall pine trees provide them with shelter and security over the winter. Recently raptors, too, have been sighted more frequently in mature forests. This shows how important these woodlands are both as green belts and as ecological habitats for a wide variety of animal and bird species.”