Paula's Patch: A Minnesota Garden

Come wander in; my gate is always open! Gardening / Birding

Owls Exposed October 19, 2012

I think owls are some of the most interesting and wonderful creatures. Each one has a such a cute, unique face . Like my quest to get a good look at a Pileated Woodpecker, so it is with Owls.

I’ve seen only a few from a distance, leaving me with a longing to observe them more closely. That’s easier said than done. Even if they are active during the day, they are really hard to spot. They are colored in such a way that they look just like tree bark, blending into their surroundings perfectly.

My desire to see more grew when we shared a campsite with 2 Barred Owls. At first the sound frightened me because I didn’t know what it was. Each evening at dusk, the pair caterwauled loudly for about 30 minutes. There we were, just about the only ones in a dark campground, hearing these 2 chat back and forth. Downright creepy!

Barred Owl, ed schneider, allaboutbirds | | paula bonelli

Barred Owl, Ed Schneider via

Last year (2011) there was an increase in sightings of Snowy Owls south of their winter range. We’re not talking about isolated sightings either. There was a significant movement of this species into the lower 48 from coast-to-coast. Ornithologists believe it was the mild winter conditions that brought them to forage for food in areas where they are not usually seen.

Snowy Owl, michael sagatova, allaboutbirds | | paula bonelli

Snowy Owl, Michael Sagatova via

Snowies survive winters by dining mainly on rodents. Their primary food source is lemmings. It is believed that this food source was less available forcing them farther south than usual. With the milder winters in the northern climates and little snow cover, rodents were easy to come by. Snowies were seen in great numbers in Wisconsin and Michigan from early fall through November 30, 2011. Most owls are nocturnal, but owls such as the Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Burrowing Owl, Great Gray Owl, and Short-Eared Owl are diurnal and are awake during the day.

I use eBird to record my observations of birds in my area and beyond. It is a joint effort by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon to learn more about the habits of many species of birds. It also helps them record and track rare sightings and migratory paths. It takes just a few moments to register (free) and record your observations.

Facts about Owls 

Barn Owl, brianlsullivan, allaboutbirds | | paula bonell

Barn Owl, Brian L Sullivan via

Did you know —

  • all owls are not nocturnal?
  • owls have forward-facing eyes that are unable to move; they turn their entire head to see in a different direction.
  • they cannot turn their heads 360 degrees around; instead they swivel their head around 270 degrees to visualize their surroundings?
  • that there are approximately 205 species of owls?
  • that the tufts on top of owl’s heads are not “ears”? Their ears are located on the facial disk behind the eyes and are covered by feathers.
  • that owls create many different vocalizations besides the familiar hoot? Just like other birds, they have different sounds in different situations. The hoot is usually a territorial sound, while other sounds include screeches, hisses and screams. Enter the creepy factor when heard in the dark!

What kinds of owls live in your yard or area?


5 Responses to “Owls Exposed”

  1. Gillian Says:

    I love owls and eBird; it’s great to find someone else who does, too! Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls are the probably the most common ones in my area (Ottawa, Canada), but we usually get Snowies every year, too. Eastern Screech Owls are around, but are difficult to find unless you go out after dark and listen for them or know where they like to roost during the day.

    I usually find owls by listening to the crows. When they find an owl, they will mob it, dive-bomb it, and scream in its face until the owl leaves. This doesn’t happen all that often, and when it does, the owl seems much more concerned about ME than about the crows.

    I don’t go out birding at night, but I would love to go camping sometime and hear the owls conversing with each other – as you did!

    • Paula B Says:

      Hi Gillian,
      Sounds like you have some wonderful experiences with owls! Thanks for stopping by. I’m following your site now, look forward to reading more soon anf keeping in touch with each other since we’ve got birding and gardening in common. 🙂

      • Gillian Says:

        Thanks Paula! I don’t seem to have the same success with my garden as you do; I wish I had a huge lot I can turn into a true wildlife garden. Instead, I have a typical small townhouse yard which seems to get more squirrels than anything else.

        Looking forward to keeping in touch as well!

  2. Great post, Paula! I love the sound of owls; we have a few standing dead trees here in the woods behind our house, so I do hear the Great Horned owls hooting at night. Love that sound but I almost never see them.

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