Owl aviary provides educational opportunity for community

Published 4:19 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

BY GRACIE FIELDS
STAR CORRESPONDENT

Located at the Roan Mountain State Park headquarters is a Bird of Prey owl aviary maintained by owl ambassadors and caregivers. The purpose is to educate the public on the area’s diverse raptors, such as owls.

“(The aviary) was started in 2016 by J.R. Tinch, who was the current park manager,” said Phillip Hylen, park ranger.

Tinch planned to help create educational opportunities and new programs for the community. The cages are cared for by the rangers and volunteers.

“The aviary is almost completely funded by donations from the community or our ambassadors,” Hylen said.

The aviary currently contains three owls: a pair of barred owls, named Shiloh and Capone, and one great-horned owl, named Sunshine. All have suffered an injury that makes them incapable of living in the wild.

“Unfortunately, we cannot release them, but we have a wonderful group of people who continue to take care of them,” Hylen said. “The cages contain many real wood perches for the owls to sit and sleep on.

“They are exclusively carnivores, so they’ll eat any meat that’s sizable enough. The most popular meat for them is mice.”

Since the aviary is located at the park headquarters, the owls can be visited anytime during the daylight hours.

“We plan on making new improvements to the aviary to make it more educational for the community and more spacious for the owls,” Hylen said.

The park officials plan to add more homes so that they can take in more owls. In addition to the new homes, they plan to build an outdoor space that serves as an education center.

“We just want to inform the public on how to respect these beautiful creatures and nature,” Hylen said.

There has been no set date for the new projects but the park remains hopeful.