Houston, MN

Explore various owls species in International Owl Center

Paula Carlsen

HOUSTON, MN - Houston, Minnesota, a small community of roughly 1,000 people, chose to build a nature center in 1996 to serve as the town's Root River Trail entrance. Karla Bloem started working for the city to create the Houston Nature Center shortly after. Other nature centers recommended that she start programming before the building was built. Karla bought Alice, a permanently damaged Great Horned Owl, in 1998 to utilize in instructional presentations. Alice has found a lot of new friends and new species ever since. Who are they?


On a beautiful spring day in 1997, a three-week-old owl fell out of her fragile nest high in a mature pine tree in Antigo, Wisconsin. At the small city-run Houston Nature Center in Houston, Minnesota, Alice the Great Horned Owl was the sole live animal (979).

Alice won the Lady Gray'l Award from the World Owl Hall of Fame in 2010. Alice has been the matriarch of the owl ambassadors at the International Owl Center since it debuted in 2015. Alice officially retired in 2018 due to her advanced age and arthritis.

Rusty and Iris

After being injured by a car as an adult, Rusty was admitted to the Raptor Education Group, Inc. in Antigo, WI, in 2007. He had brain and right eye injuries, as well as a broken left radius. Although his wing was mended, he was permanently blind in his right eye, preventing him from hunting well enough to support a family in the wild. In 2013, his damaged eye had to be removed.

Iris was taken to the Raptor Education Group as an adult in 2006 after suffering a puncture to her right eye. Her injuries deformed her pupil and damaged her gaze to the point where she is unlikely to see out of her right eye, putting her survival in the wild in jeopardy.

Rusty and Iris were retired from the vocal research once the breeding phase was completed in 2018.


Ruby was born in captivity in 2014 as part of the International Owl Center's Great Horned Owl breeding project, which aims to learn more about the birds' vocalizations.


Eurasian Eagle Owls are one of the world's largest owl species. The females of nearly all owl species are more significant than the males, making Uhu a VERY LARGE bird. In 2011, Uhu was born in captivity in the United States and worked as an educational ambassador at a Massachusetts facility. After that institution closed, she came to the International Owl Center.


Piper took by Kathy SchefflerKathy Scheffler / International Owl Center

On March 24, 2016, Piper the Barn Owl was born in captivity in New York. Her parents and grandparents were severely bruised wild owls from Arizona who was utilized to raise young owls to release back into the wild to boost the Barn Owl population in New York.

Piper is kept in a net enclosure at work so she may have some playtime, pounce on her toys, and get some exercise while she's awake. Uhu weighs well over 5 pounds, while she weighs barely over a pound.


In May of 2018, JR was born in captivity. His parents work at another location as non-releasable education ambassadors with eye injuries. Until they deposited eggs that actually hatched, the parents were thought to be both females.

JR was the first owl to be assigned to the position of ambassador owl. He's been well-socialized with humans and siblings, so he'll feel at ease in his new role. He's about the size of a quarter-pound hamburger.

Found out more about owls on www.internationalowlcenter.org/

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