Barred Owls in the evening woods

Barred Owl

On a lovely summer evening last week, I went for a walk in a nearby park and had quite a pleasant surprise. Amid the heavy foliage, I saw a large bird swoop down from the trees across the path before me. I heard them before I saw them: a pair of Barred Owls.

Barred Owl in the trees. With their striped brown and white plumage, they blended in well with the trees.

I have not seen owls since seriously starting birding, so I was quite excited! I last saw a Barred Owl about two years ago in my backyard. Now I wonder if they could have been the very same owl; they were typically have a small home range, staying within the same 10km radius (Cornell). They may be nesting in the area as I’ve seen them a few times since. I managed to keep quiet to avoid disturbing them, but I think my efforts were wasted as I am sure he knew I was there as he peered down at me.

“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” is a common call of the Barred Owl

He looked around, seeming to be on alert. If he had ears, I imagine they’d have been twitching and moving around like a cat’s. The two of them swooped down from the trees a few times, and once flew right over my head from behind. I didn’t hear a thing and had no idea it was there! For a moment, I felt like a little mouse. They must have no idea what’s coming when an owl swoops down to prey on them. Like other owls, Barred Owls fly silently in the night using their keen eyesight and hearing to hunt small animals from mice and squirrels, to small birds, reptiles and amphibians (Cornell).

The Barred Owl on alert at dusk, his head rotating in almost every direction.

The Barred Owl’s range spread to the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s and ’70s where they now compete with the smaller Spotted Owl for habitat and resources. While Barred Owls are displacing many Spotted Owls in this region, the two species even occasionally inter-breed and hybridize (Seattle Audubon; Audubon).

a silent hunter, the Barred Owl

Despite these challenges, both the Barred and Spotted Owl face habitat loss due to deforestation and the loss of old-growth trees. I hope the two will be able to co-exist peacefully someday.

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