The Barred Owl
Fall's in full swing! As the leaves drop from the trees, this makes the season prime owl-spotting time! This month, our Critter Highlight is the Barred Owl!
Barred Owls are native to eastern North America, although their range has expanded west over time. Most of their western expansion has occurred through the rural mid portion of Canada, which features the mature woodlands that constitute their preferred habitat, along with wetland forests. Their 'barred' markings enable them to camouflage in such environments. Barred owls appear as variations of gray and brown, appearing somewhat speckled in appearance, which can make them difficult to spot against tree bark. They have a generally round shape due to their feathers, giving the impression of a more solid form, but are in fact a mid-sized owl, with the males at their biggest coming in just under 2 lbs and the females at their biggest coming in at 2.5 lbs.
Barred owls, like many owl species, are opportunistic in their preferred prey. Most of their diet is made up of mammals, and especially mice, followed by birds.They've also been reported to prey upon reptiles like snakes and lizards, amphibians, and fish. One notable event included a barred owl surviving after consuming a toxic newt. While barred owls are not habitual fishers, at one location in Florida there have been reports of owls using a dock as a perch to fish from. Barred owls have been known to capture moths in mid-air, and even seek out human-made light sources for the purpose of hunting flying insects, although they seem to prefer ground beetles, which are likely easier to hunt. In areas where the local owls eat more crayfish, a barred owl may even turn slightly pink from their diet, much like a flamingo!
The distinctive call of the barred owl is often described as sounding like "who cooks for you?" with the 'you' extended. Barred owls have a habit of nesting near suburban areas where they find hollow trees or snags to inhabit, which means they are one of the more heard and seen of the owls of North America. They are known to call in the daytime as well as the night, and mated pairs may even call together. So this fall, as you spend more time outside, listen for one of North America's most common owls!
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