Who are you? Barred Owls on Valley Street

by | May 26, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: May 23, 2018 at 11:35 am

From the Audubon Society: The rich baritone hooting of the Barred Owl is a characteristic sound in southern swamps, where members of a pair often will call back and forth to each other. Although the bird is mostly active at night, it will also call and even hunt in the daytime. Only a little smaller than the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl is markedly less aggressive, and competition with its tough cousin may keep the Barred out of more open woods.

Habitat
Woodlands, wooded river bottoms, wooded swamps. Favors mostly dense and thick woods with only scattered clearings, especially in low-lying and swampy areas. Most common in deciduous or mixed woods in the Southeast, but in the North and Northwest may be found in mature coniferous trees.

Feeding Behavior
Hunts by night or day, perhaps most at dawn and dusk. Seeks prey by watching from perch, also by flying low through forest; may hover before dropping to clutch prey in talons.

Eggs
Two or three, rarely four. White. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 28-33 days; male brings food to incubating female.

Young
Female may remain with young much of time at first, while male hunts and brings back food for her and for young. Age of young at first flight about six weeks.

Diet
Mostly small mammals. Eats many mice and other small rodents, also squirrels (including flying squirrels), rabbits, opossums, shrews, other small mammals. Also eats various birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, some insects. May take aquatic creatures such as crayfish, crabs, fish.

Nesting
Courtship involves both male and female bobbing and bowing heads, raising wings, and calling while perched close together. Male may feed female in courtship. Members of pair often call in duet. Nest site is in large natural hollow in tree, broken-off snag, or on old nest of hawk, crow, or squirrel. Rarely nests on ground. In the East, often uses old red-shouldered hawk nests; hawk and owl may use same nest in alternate years.

Interesting Facts
From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
• The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps. But this attractive owl, with soulful brown eyes and brown-and-white-striped plumage, can also pass completely unnoticed as it flies noiselessly through the dense canopy or snoozes on a tree limb. Originally a bird of the East, during the 20th century it spread through the Pacific Northwest and southward into California.
• The Great Horned Owl is the most serious predatory threat to the Barred Owl. Although the two species often live in the same areas, a Barred Owl will move to another part of its territory when a Great Horned Owl is nearby.
• Pleistocene fossils of Barred Owls, at least 11,000 years old, have been dug up in Florida, Tennessee and Ontario.
• Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. Of 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than six miles away.
• Despite their generally sedentary nature, Barred Owls have recently expanded their range into the Pacific Northwest. There, they are displacing and hybridizing with Spotted Owls — their slightly smaller, less aggressive cousins — which are already threatened from habitat loss.
• Young Barred Owls can climb trees by grasping the bark with their bill and talons, flapping their wings, and walking their way up the trunk.
• The oldest recorded Barred Owl was at least 24 years, one month old. It was banded in Minnesota in 1986, and found dead, entangled in fishing gear, in the same state in 2010.

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