Family Time: ‘Experience everything owls’ at festival

February 28, 2019
A pair of great horned owls watch the people watching them during the 2015 Festival of Owls at the Owl Center in Houston.

Learn more about our feathered friends at the International Owl Center’s International Festival of Owls. Drawing 2,000-plus visitors from the U.S. and abroad to the tiny town of Houston (population 979), the annual event offers a variety of opportunities to meet and learn more about owls.

“There’s an opportunity to see a live owl show all three days,” said Karla Bloem, International Owl Center’s executive director. “The Illinois Raptor Center will bring snowy, great horned, barred, short-eared, eastern screech, and American barn owls for one-hour programs at the high school. And this year we’re adding short-attention span programs (15 to 20 minutes) at the International Owl Center, featuring the center’s own Ruby, a great horned, and J.R., an eastern screech owl.”

In between the owl programs, families will find fun with a variety of kid- and parent-friendly activities, including face painting, owl-themed crafts, a kids’ hooting contest, owl pellet dissection, and nest box building.

“Families are encouraged to take the nest boxes home and put them up in the yard,” said Bloem. “Just because you live in the city, doesn’t mean you don’t have owls. You most certainly do. Every now and then we hear from someone who attended the festival who gets an owl in theirs.”

Now in its 17th year, the festival started as a hatch-day party for Alice, a great horned owl. Permanently injured and human-imprinted, Alice worked at the Houston Nature Center and International Owl Center. Now 22 years old, Alice is retired and will not be attending this year’s festival.

“Alice will not be attending, but we will have a hatch-day cake at the event to celebrate her (approximate) hatch-day 22 years ago,” said Bloem. “The festival is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Alice’s hatch-day and to experience everything owls that you can imagine.”