An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Barred Owl Story in the Snow

2-17-14  barred owl prints 013These beautiful impressions in the snow tell the story of a Barred Owl diving feet first after prey, most likely a vole or mouse. The fact that there are no rodent tracks on the surface of the snow tells you that the mouse or vole was well hidden in its tunnel under the snow at the time. Apparently the owl’s talons did not reach their target (at least, no blood or rodent remnants), and the owl continued to plow through the snow in repeated attempts to capture its prey before taking flight.

The presence of facial discs (feathers in the shape of a funnel around each eye that direct sound waves towards the owl’s ear) plus the differing size and asymmetrical placement of an owl’s ear openings allow the owl to discern the direction a sound is coming from, how far away it is and its height relative to the owl – even in the dark or under the snow! The exceptional hearing ability of owls, particularly those in the genus Strix (which includes Barred and Great Gray Owls), enables them to plunge into the snow and often successfully capture prey, sight unseen. (Species of owl was determined by wing length. Thanks to Rob Anderegg and Jennifer Grant for photo op.)

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10 responses

  1. Excellent photo and description – not easy to find a tracks and traces story that is so well defined!

    February 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    • Thanks so much, Nick. This means a lot, especially coming from you.

      February 17, 2014 at 6:58 pm

  2. What a great photo giving clues to survival in the wild! I’ve been wondering how the barred owls will manage with the deep snow cover we have here in Sunapee.

    February 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm

  3. Emmylou Christensen

    Dad, I hope that this will make you feel better.

    LOVE Emmylou

    February 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm

  4. Marilyn

    Beautiful!

    February 17, 2014 at 8:52 pm

  5. Marian Boudreault

    WOW !!!!! WHAT A PHOTO, send that to Nat’l Geo girl….you’ll win for sure.
    Best to you and Emma. Marian

    February 17, 2014 at 11:59 pm

  6. Amazing – talk about a picture being worth a thousand words – this one really tells the story!

    February 18, 2014 at 2:55 am

  7. Now that’s an imprint! Cool.

    February 18, 2014 at 10:18 am

  8. Hope you are lucky enough to see half of what she posts!

    “Conservation is a cause that has no end. There is no point at which we say, ‘Our work is finished.'” Rachel Carson

    February 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

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