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Feathered Fishermen

4-24-17 barred owl IMG_8141

Using their keen eyesight and sense of hearing, Barred Owls typically sit and perch on a branch, surveying the ground beneath them for whatever morsel appears, small mammals and birds being at the top of their list during the winter, with more emphasis on amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates during the warmer months.

Several times I have observed a Barred Owl taking advantage of a vernal pool that was teaming with life, specifically Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers. Perched in a nearby tree, the owl kept an eye out for any sign of movement in the water.  When ripples appeared near the shore it would swoop down to the water’s edge in an attempt to grasp a frog with its talons. Although it met with repeated failure, success was inevitable due to the plethora of distracted mating frogs.

Because they lack hair and feathers, frogs may be underestimated when scientists dissect owl pellets to see what Barred Owls eat. Given the frequency with which I have observed these feathered fishermen, I would think that might be very likely.

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10 responses

  1. This makes so much sense – a vernal pool makes such a great spot for hunting. I’m curious, Mary: how long do you sit quietly in one place, to have the opportunity to observe something like this?

    April 27, 2017 at 8:43 am

    • In this particular instance, I am fortunate enough to live in the woods within sight of a vernal pool. I think I would not have the patience to sit and wait to see this, as I only see it once or twice a year — I’ve just learned to look out the window and notice any “lump” on a branch!

      April 27, 2017 at 8:53 am

  2. John Mullane

    I observed a perched barred owl in the swamp south of New Orleans. S/he was perched on a telephone pole near a small bayou and even closer to the stairs leading to the house/camp where we were to spend the night. Four of us walked passed the owl on our way up. It never moved. Must have been focused on those frogs!?!

    April 27, 2017 at 9:19 am

  3. On Easter Sunday, Tim and I returned home around 10pm from visiting family in Mass. As we parked, our headlights picked out a barred owl sitting in a bowed tree over the little vernal pool about 25′ away. She stayed there the whole time we unpacked the car.

    We’ve heard her and her mate a lot over the past week; it’s always a relief to discover “your” barred owls made it through the winter, isn’t it?

    April 27, 2017 at 12:53 pm

  4. Mary H. Leahy

    Terry, So much for the vernal pool critters!!! Happily, I did hear the spring peepers at a marshland near here on either side of the road called “Beaver Pond Road”. The frantic cacophony was SO loud, I simply pulled the truck over, got out and listened with glee. Even in the midst of their choral exuberance, they do stop SUDDENLY when a person or car approaches nearby, but if I stay still and wait, they start the music once again. I am always spellbound when I hear them! Didn’t happen to see one of these “feathered fishermen”, though.

    April 27, 2017 at 2:05 pm

  5. Noreen

    Wouldn’t we see a frog skeleton in the pellet?

    April 27, 2017 at 7:33 pm

  6. Tucker & ELi

    Great picture!

    April 27, 2017 at 8:36 pm

  7. I’ve seen crayfish remains in barred owl pellets.

    April 29, 2017 at 9:10 am

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