If you are near our dense, swampy woods in habitat dominated by bald cypress and old-growth oak, you are likely to hear, hoo-hoo-to-hoo-ooo, hoo-hoo-hoo-to-whooo-ooo or “Who cooks for you?” – the melodious call of the Barred Owl. Less likely seen than heard, the Barred Owl hunts most actively at night, mainly just after dusk and just before dawn. Its rounded head distinguishes it from the slightly larger Great Horned Owl with its ear tufts and only a single repeating note “whooo, whooo.” Reinier
Munguia took this dramatic photograph in the late afternoon light, using a Nikon D70 on a tripod, with a fill flash.
The Barred Owl’s range in the Eastern US has recently expanded into western North America. A non-migratory species, they vigorously defend their established territory (about one square mile), returning year after year to the same nesting cavity in old-growth trees.
During mating season, if your windows are open to allow the night sounds to penetrate, you may have been startled awake by, the maniacal cries and screams of courting Barred Owls, which would make you wonder at first if someone is in distress!
Preferring mammal prey, they silently swoop to snatch a rabbit or rodent at the edge of the forest or in the suburbs. However, the Barred Owl is an opportunistic predator, pursuing any suitable prey that comes their way, including robbing bird nests to feeding on crayfish and snakes. One morning I was awakened by raucous calls of Blue Jays and Red-bellied Woodpeckers mobbing two Barred Owls that had alighted on a branch of a pine snag. The Barred Owls were too close to the woodpeckers’ nest in a cavity in the deteriorating bare tree. Ignoring continued harassment, eventually one Barred Owl and then the other flew off to a quieter roost to perch for the day.
Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society