Wednesday, May 22: Wed, May 22: 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM

Critter Cove

Barred Owls

The presence of owls in a forest is a good sign that the forest has matured and is able to provide a home for enough small animals to support large birds of prey. Barred owls inhabit forests of both deciduous and coniferous trees, spending their days roosting quietly in treetops and becoming active at dusk to hunt food. Barred Owls are nonmigratory and tend to stick around in the same patch of forest year-round.

In order to find a mate, Barred Owls will engage in courtships songs, which are different from their normal calls. Potential mates will often call in harmony or as a duet. Once a male woos his love interest and she accept him, the pair will mate for life. Breeding occurs between March and August, and females will lay a clutch of 2-4 eggs.

Barred Owls will prey on most small animals, like squirrels, mice, birds, rats, chipmunks, large insects, and reptiles, but how do they hunt in total darkness? The key to their success is their hearing. Apart from having excellent hearing, many owls, including Barred Owls have asymmetrical ear placement, meaning one ear is slightly offset from the other ear on their head. When the sound of a squeaking mouse reaches their head, the time it takes that sound to reach one ear versus the other will give the owl a precise location of the sound in a 3-dimensional space, and thus, the prey. This is known as sound localization. In fact, their hearing is so good and their sound localization is so refined that they are able to target a rodent digging under the snow with pinpoint accuracy.

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