Night owls live it up in Loop park

January 23, 2008 4:04:38 PM PST
The wilds of Canada have invaded the downtown Chicago area. Several owls have taken up residence in a small park not far from The Loop. The owls are attracting bird lovers from around the Midwest. For the safety of the birds, their location has not been released. Generally speaking, they're about a mile-- which is as far as owls fly-- from the Sears Tower.

The long-eared owls have moved into a group of pine trees in the small park for the winter. As a rule, the birds tend to avoid us as they migrate South, but they seem to like city living.

"It's a little unusual for them to be in the city. More typically you will find them in rows of pines in rural areas or forest preserves but we've got a situation where we have a few pines and obviously they're finding enough food to survive," said Doug Stotz, ornithologist for The Field Museum.

Stotz says the owls probably came from Canada. When they arrived in Chicago in late November there were about ten of them. Now there are just three who have not moved on to other locations. They're near the excitement of The Loop, so, naturally, they are night owls.

"Strictly nighttime, yeah, they do all their hunting at night. You don't see them out during the day," said Stotz.

So what do owls living the highlife near State and Madison eat for dinner?

"What they're eating is small rodents. Mostly mice, possibly some rats," said Stotz.

In March, they'll head back north to breed.

"And then have their little babies and do it all over again and head south," said Stotz. "And, then maybe they'll be in this park again next year."