The call was a familiar one to Main library associate Steve Oakes and his wife, but there was an unusual element about it. What was occurring was normally resigned to nighttime, not exclusively, but on most occasions. It recently happened about 6:30 pm near the back of their house, and it was close, real close. The distinctive noise sounded like someone saying, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all…” and was coming from a Barred Owl.
Steve and his wife raced to the back of the property to try to find the feathered visitor. The neighbor from behind their house joined in the hunt. Low and behold, the owl was about halfway up a tall cedar tree next to the neighbors’ house. Luckily, it stayed long enough to allow a couple of pictures to be taken, recording its presence.
Barred owls are one of the common “earless” owls, which can be found in urban environments.
Its larger cousin, the Great Horned Owl, has distinctive feathers that look like ears. Both species will live in the same area of older town developments with plenty of full-grown trees, provided there are enough small mammals to sustain them. Forests and open woodlands are their home as well.
The striped feathering on the Barred owls’ chest gives the bird its name. Non-migratory, they normally mate for life, with the female laying eggs in February or March. Incubation is for 28 days, solely by the female, with the male hunting food for the two of them. Fledging will occur around 36 to 39 days, with the adults still delivering food until the young develop the skills to hunt on their own.
For more information about owls, we suggest these books.
Owls of North America by Frances Backhouse
Owls by Cynthia Berger; illustrations by Amelia Hansen
Greta the Great Horned Owl: A True Story of Rescue and Rehabilitation by Christie Gove-Berg