Last week while sitting in the living room and talking to my daughter on the phone, I saw a huge bird swoop from the ground to the top of one of the deer feeder tubes. At first I thought it was one of those darned turkeys but then realized that there was no way a turkey could fit up on the top of the tube. Quickly hanging up the phone and grabbing the binoculars, I discovered that we had a Barred Owl perched up on the feeder. While we hear barred owls fairly often, we don’t get to see many so I quickly grabbed the camera and took a photo. He sat for a while and then flew off to another hunting place.
Barred Owls are quite vocal with a “hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo” . The older folks and some birders think that the call sounds like “Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?” – The very last syllable is lower than the rest. You can often hear their call in the daylight hours and then of course, at night. Many times when you listen carefully, you will hear another owl return the call. They have other vocalizations but the one described here sounds like this . (Owl Call)
These owls are a medium-sized owl. The color is a grayish-brown and is streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly. Their heads are round with a tannish facial disk trimmed in dark brown trim. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons. The eyes are brown but the Wikipedia says that only eastern owls have brown eyes—all others are gold. Their beak is yellow with feathers covering most of it and they have a long tail. They do not have ear tufts. Males and females look exactly alike. The size is approx. 40-60 cm (16-25 inches) with a wingspan of 96-125 cm (38-50 inches).
The diet of this owl consists of mice and moles but it will also feed on rabbits, chipmunks, foxes, doves and other birds, among other things. They even will swoop down to water to catch an unsuspecting frog or other amphibian. They are sometimes attracted to campfires or lights where they keep a watch for large bugs.
While these owls call year-round, their breeding season begins in February with breeding occurring between March and August. Males hoot and females give contact calls (come and get me big boy 🙂 ). The incubation period is 28-33 days once the two to four eggs are laid.
Owls are interesting birds and it is a delight to be able to view them during the daylight hours. I have also shown another photo, to the left, of an owl that graced us with its presence on one late afternoon. Keep a watch out and you may be lucky enough to see one of these birds swooping down for that unsuspecting mouse one of these days.