Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Barred Owl

Barred Owls are fairly common in our woodlands, though seeing one might be difficult. I might have better luck pointing out its call, "Who cooks for you, Who cooks for you?" I hear these owls calling in the early morning as I open my banding nets. Barred Owls are territorial throughout the year, so fall calling is not surprising. (The linked file is used with permission of Thayer Birding Software).
I have enjoyed a few close encounters with Barred Owls. The bird in the first photo was probably at a nest. I found it for a few years near Northfield, and, in those days, I could have guaranteed you a view. But in recent years the nest tree has fallen. Barred Owls nest in cavities in mature trees. They will nest in large trees in secondary forests, unlike the endangered Spotted Owl, which requires old-growth forest. Barred Owls, however, are occasionally seen in other habitats. I found the owl in the second photo, taken with my cell phone, in residential Bloomington, Minnesota.
The last Barred Owl makes a winter roost in a tree above our Dundas banding station. The owl pays little attention to the juncos and siskins at the feeders, and the small birds do not mob the owl. Barred Owls are known to take small birds, but appear to prefer mammals. Apparently this owl ate mice trapped in John H.'s basement and tossed into the woods. 

Although Barred Owls mostly hunt at night, dawn, and dusk, they also hunt during the day. This species' lack of "ear" tufts is typical of daylight-hunting owls. Owls that roost during the day often have these tufts, which apparently make them appear like broken tree trunks. "Eared" owls are less noticeable to birds that would otherwise mob them.

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