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Owls of SW Arkansas

Owl Watch in Legends and Science


Mystery has always surrounded the owl as man has both feared and worshiped this fascinating bird.Mayan ruins at both Tikal, Guatemala, and Chichèn Itzà, Mexico, have yielded artifacts with owl images. Excavations north of Mexico have produced countless examples of owl art for anthropologists who study Indian cultures.

 Owls of SW Arkansas
Cherokee basket,Mexican pottery bird
Photo by L. Warner

Barn Owl, Logoly State Park Photo by L. Warner

Barn Owl, Logoly State Park
Photo by L. Warner

Photo by Lee Kuhn, Cornell University

Photo by Lee Kuhn
Cornell University

The first human inhabitants of Arkansas were small bands of hunters and gatherers, located primarily along the Mississippi River. At the Zebree site, in Mississippi County, the Arkansas Archeological Survey has found deposits containing eleven species of birds that date from 600-800 A.D. The barred owl is listed as one of those eleven types. The University of Arkansas Museum, Fayetteville, has a large collection of artifacts depicting bird images. Numerous owl symbols on bottles, bowls, and effigies have been traced to the various Indian groups in Arkansas, from pre-historic to later time periods.

Legends taught the Indian how to relate to his environment. Scientific information helps us to understand and protect the owls who share our environment today. This site will examine a Cherokee legend that tells why the owls have different markings and explore scientific facts about the four types of owls in southwest Arkansas. The four types of owls common to the southwest corner are the Barn Owl, the Barred Owl, the Great Horned Owl, and the Screech Owl, A sample lesson, related to the Arkansas frameworks in both tenth grade biology and English will be given. Activities will be provided and a resource page with a bibliography and links to other sites will also be included.

Copyright 1999 by Linda Warner

Permission granted to educators to print and use information in the classroom.  All other rights reserved. All photos from Cornell University Ornithology Lab may not be used for any other purpose without permission. See Resources/Links page for address.

Project Author:
Linda Warner
Emerson HS
Emerson, Arkansas


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