The Barred owl is sometimes referred to as the “hoot owl”. It is a common sound in deciduous as well as evergreen woods in the North East. You may hear them call to one another (click on the link) outside your window. Though active at night (nocturnal), you may also hear them in the day. They are asking each other, “who, who, who cooks for you?”. Sometimes one owl will be close by and then after a few calls the answer will come from a long distance away. If you continue to listen, you will hear the far one move closer and the closer one move in to meet the second owl.
They are a large sized owl and are very common, even in urban areas. Barred owls are territorial and mate for life, nesting in tree cavities near water. During mating season you might hear what sounds like a growl at the end of the call. This owl also has incredible hearing. It can hear and find mice under the snow. Their feathers are engineered to allow them to fly silently. As a result, their prey may not know they are coming.
If you find a hollow tree where they reside in, looking around the base there may be an owl pellet. If you find any, put on disposable gloves before picking it up. The undigested fur and bones are coughed up forming the pellet. Dissecting the pellet, there will be contents of the last few meals; mice, moles, reptiles, rabbits…
“Bonus Fact! Historians believe that Harriet Tubman, an avid naturalist, used the Barred owl call for people seeking to use the Underground Railroad. Depending on the call she used, freedom-seekers would know whether it was okay to come out of hiding.” (National Audubon Society, https://www.audubon.org/)
Nature is fascinating. The library and the internet are great places to further your interest on any of the subjects we cover. If you are looking for us, you will find us outside. We will be listening for the Barred Owl.