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Patient (and Hungry) Barred Owls Visit Feeders

3-12-15 barred owl 152Barred owls are nothing if not resourceful when it comes to methods for finding food. Typically they sit on a high branch and scan the area for prey before dropping down to capture small mammals such as mice, squirrels as well as reptiles and amphibians. During summer months, they have been seen perched over water and swooping down to capture fish, as well as wading in shallow water to hunt for crayfish and fish. Barred owls have even been seen running along the ground and pouncing on amphibians.

Even with a myriad of hunting techniques, however, barred owls have had a hard time this winter, due to the depth of the snow (harder to hear and reach prey) and the time it is taking for it to melt. Small mammals, which compose the bulk of their diet, remain well hidden. Reports of barred owls perched patiently waiting and watching on or near bird feeders for unsuspecting rodents to expose themselves have become commonplace. Mice and voles that come out from under the snow to feed on spilled seed during the night are a life-saving source of food for these stressed birds. Warmer weather will hopefully soon improve hunting conditions for barred owls. Their gain will be our loss, for once again, as it should be, a sighting will become a far more rare occurrence. (Thanks to Emily and Joe Silver for photo op.)

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8 responses

  1. Pingback: What Are You Doing Reading This? | dUVdive

  2. Such beautiful birds. I saw one once at night perched for the same reason above the feeder in the backyard. I applauded his ingenuity!

    March 11, 2015 at 2:50 pm

  3. shirlwalker@comcast.net

    Thank you kindly.  S.Sent from Xfinity Connect Mobile App

    March 11, 2015 at 7:02 pm

  4. Diane

    I did not know they would go for bird seed but it makes sense with the snow & cold although probably not in my area SE, PA. Enjoy all tour posts!

    March 11, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    • I believe they’re more interested in the rodents that are attracted to the bird seed, than the bird seed itself!

      March 12, 2015 at 8:08 pm

  5. Deb Hawthorn

    I have a barred owl perched in a tree right now (9:00 a.m.) at the back corner of my yard. He/she has been there for the past hour with the same patient demeanor as the one in the Silvers’ photograph. The intriguing thing about this is that a dozen wild turkeys who cycle through my yard during the day to inhale(!) the sunflower seed that I scatter on the ground below my tube feeders, trooped across my yard to just under the owl. I’ve never seen them cross the yard in that way, and I’ve never seen them in that corner at all. They stayed there for 20 minutes or so, milling around and craning their necks upward while the owl calmly watched them. Midway through that time, a second flock of turkeys that also come to my feeders crossed the wooded hillside above my yard to join the turkeys under the owl. All of them stayed together for another 10 minutes or so before heading back across the hillside together. Do you have any idea what was going on between them and the owl?

    March 12, 2015 at 9:10 am

    • Hi Deb,
      I have absolutely no idea! They are far too big for a barred owl to attempt to catch — a grouse is about its size limit…how very interesting and somewhat amusing!

      March 12, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      • Deb Hawthorn

        Hi Mary,

        After the turkeys left the owl and moved back across my yard to the feeders yesterday, the owl stayed in its tree for quite a while until swooping down to grab some sort of prey that was browsing in the compost pile below. The owl disappeared into the woods for a short time before returning to its post over the compost pile.

        Meanwhile, the turkeys came and went on their accustomed rounds through the neighborhood. When they returned later on, they poked around under the bird feeders and then suddenly hurried across my yard to the space where they’d gathered before, below where the owl was keeping watch. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve never seen them in that corner of my yard until yesterday, and they had absolutely no interest in the compost pile that the owl was watching. They knew the owl was there and were seeking it out for some reason.

        It was such fun to watch all that going on . . .

        March 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

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