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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Barred Owls

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Owls form an important link in an ecosystem. It is a predator which mainly feeds on rats. Rats cause great damages to agriculture, horticulture and to our stored gains. Thus these are our friends.

There are many types of owls. Some are big and some are small.  A  Barred Owl is a medium-sized grey-brown owl with a large, rounded head with no ear-tufts, and streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly.

The facial disc of Barred Owl is pale greyish-brown with darker concentric lines. The rim is not very prominent. Eyes are dark brown to blackish-brown. The cere is pale horn, the bill pale yellowish with a slight greenish tint. The sides of the head and neck are barred light and dark. The upperparts are brown to greyish-brown, scalloped with whitish bars on the crown, back and mantle. Wing-coverts are spotted whitish. Flight feathers are barred whitish-buff and brown. The tail is brown or greyish-brown with 4-5 whitish bars.

Under parts are pale greyish-brown to dirty whitish. The upper breast and fore neck are densely barred light and dark. The rest of the under parts are boldly streaked dark to rufous-brown.
Tarsi are feathered, and toes are almost totally feathered, the bare parts being yellowish-grey. Claws are dark horn with blackish tips. Length of the body varies from 40-63 cm. Wingspan ranges from 96-125cm. Tail length 312-380mm. Weight 500-1050g. Females are normally larger and heavier than males.

It is  a nocturnal bird which means it comes out mainly during nights. It hides in dense foliage during the day, usually high in high part of a tree. It may also roost on a branch close to a broad tree-trunk, or in a natural tree hole. This owl may be very aggressive when defending a nest.

The Barred Owl is a highly vocal Owl giving a loud and resounding "hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo" which is often phrased as "Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?" - The last syllable drops off noticeably. Like some other Owl species, they will call in the daytime as well as at night. The calls are often heard in a series of eight, then silence, when the Owl listens for a reply from other Owls. Other calls include "hoo-hoo, hoo-WAAAHH" and "hoo-WAAAHHH" used in courtship. Mates will duet, but the male's voice is deeper and mellower. Many other vocalisations are made which range from a short yelp or bark to a frenzied and raucous monkey-like squall.

Hunting & Food
Owl is a very opportunistic hunter. An owl may a sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days. A Barred Owl will use a perch, from where it dives upon its prey - meadow voles are its main prey, followed by shrews and deer mice. Other mammals include rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. Birds are taken occasionally, including woodpeckers, grouse, quail, jays, blackbirds, and pigeons. They also eat small fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, crayfish, scorpions, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Birds are taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts, because they cannot catch birds on the wing. They will also swoop down to the water's edge to catch frogs, other amphibians, and occasionally fish. Barred Owls are attracted to campfires and lights where they forage for large insects. Prey is usually devoured on the spot. Larger prey is carried to a feeding perch and torn apart before eating.

Barred Owls call year-round but courtship activities begin in February with breeding occurring between March and August. Males hoot and females give contact calls. As the nesting season approaches, males chase after females giving a variety of hooting and screeching calls. Males display by swaying back and forth, and raising their wings, while sidling along a branch. Courtship feeding and mutual preening also occur. Barred Owls nest in cavities and will also use abandoned nests of  Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Squirrel, or Crows. Eggs number 2-4 and are white, and almost perfectly round, with a slightly rough texture.

Life Spawn
Barred Owls have been known to live up to 32 years in captivity and 10 years or more in the wild. Most deaths are likely to be related to man (shootings, road kills etc). Great Horned Owls are their only natural enemy.

Key Words: Barred Owl, birds,nest

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