If you haven’t heard the Barred Owl hooting, you have missed one of the most familiar sounds attributed to an owl. The sound of the Barred Owl is sometimes likened to the phrase “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all?” Of course, they also have Hoots, Ascending Hoots and an Ascending-Wail, which is much like the sound humans can make blowing through two fingers placed in the mouth. All of these sounds have a purpose but are often only understood by the owls themselves.
Sandra Helig, who lives on Abercorn, has been very fortunate to have a ringside seat out her upstairs back window. She has been able to take some wonderful pictures of these owls as they have been investigating a cavity in a large oak and perhaps are already nesting. If the cavity is of the proper size (at least 6″ in diameter) the female may only line it with a few feathers. Owls apparently don’t believe in soft bedding, unlike so many of our birds. She will lay 2-3 white eggs, and incubation of 4-5 weeks starts once the final egg is laid. By the time the young owlets are three weeks old, they are covered with white down and show the beginnings of wing feathers, but they cannot fly at this age. They often crawl out of tree cavities using their beak and talons to hold on to the bark. If they fall to the ground, they are able to climb rough barked trees, holding on with their bill. They spread their wings across the trunk as they step with their feet. According to Stokes Nature Guides, they can climb a 50 ft. tree in 20 minutes! The owlets are ready to fly when they are 12-15 weeks old, but they continue to be fed by their parents until late summer or early fall.
The parents feed the owlets at the nest site but keep the surroundings very clean. Owls usually have preferred roosting and feeding perches within their territory. If you are able to find one of these areas, look on the ground for the pellets left by the owls. If you pull them apart, you will find fur and bones of the prey they have regurgitated. Children find this fascinating, especially if you have a microscope.
Thank you Sandy for sharing your photos.
Landscaping Committee Chair