Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Let's Talk About "Who-cooks-for-you?"

Let's talk about the owl whose call sounds as if it's saying "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you al-l-l-l-l!" I heard a Barred Owl (Strix varia) last night across the lake. It is one of the sounds in nature that I treasure.

Barred Owls (BAOW) are the nocturnal counterparts of Red-shouldered Hawks. Barred Owls dwell in moist bottomland woodlands, ravines, and swamps. Crayfish, water snakes, rodents, insects, small birds, and frogs are examples of their prey. 

Barred Owl (captive)   ©Joni L. James

They range in size from 16-24 inches with a wingspan of  38-50 inches. They are not the largest of our owls in Indiana, that distinction belongs to the Great horned Owl. Barred Owls are next in size. They have a rounded head with no ear tufts and are gray-brown in color. They have large liquid black eyes-- at a distance the iris looks brown; at close range they appear blue-black.

Barred Owls nest in tree cavities and abandoned nests of crows and hawks. Nesting season is during the winter months (as it is for most owl species here). Courtship is a noisy performance. They are particularly vocal during late fall and early winter when trying to attract mates. They will call throughout the night especially under a full moon. You can often hear them on cloudy days especially during the winter. 

BAOW usually lay a clutch of 2-4 eggs. Incubation is mostly by the female taking 28-32 days. Fledging takes place 40-45 days. Barred Owls are not migratory so they are here all year round.

Barred Owl (captive)   ©Joni L. James

If you hear the calls of a Barred Owl, you will never forget it. I encourage you to listen to the link below to hear the maniacal calls, barks, cackles, and wails of this wonderful raptor.
Listen at night, dawn, dusk, and on cloudy winter days . . . you just might experience the hair on the back of your neck rise!

A Cornell Lab of Ornithology youtube link to hear a recording of BAOW calling:

{Note: The Barred Owl in these images is Elmo, an owl who is a permanent resident at the Indiana Raptor Center. The IRC rehabilitates injured raptors and provides educational programs on bird of prey. They are dedicated individuals at the center who do tremendous work. Consider booking them for programs and/or donating to their passion & cause. Link: www.indianaraptorcenter.org}

You can always leave comments at the end of each post. Let me know what you think of Barred Owls & experiences you may have had!

1 comment:

Deb Crecelius said...

We (my family) all love hearing these birds.
...yesterday, my brother-in-law saw a young red-tailed hawk sitting on Mann Road.
Nothing visibly wrong, but it wouldn't move.
He took it home (less than a mile away) and called the Indiana Raptor Center.
They sent someone and to pick up the bird.
From the photo posted on FaceBook, it is a beautiful bird.
Hope it can recover.