He perches quietly and watches for movement in the grassy fence rows and pasture. His large black eyes slowly scan the surrounding in hopes he may spot his supper. His search for food may last well into the night as it takes 6-8 field voles to satisfy his hunger.
The barred owl shares his territory with his cousin, the great-horned owl. Both are large powerful owls who hunt the farmland and woods here in Southwest Wisconsin. They can handle such large prey as rabbits, squirrels, gophers and small birds but they prefer to dine on mice and voles if they can find them.
Hoo-hoo, hoohoohoo hooaw. The barred owl’s haunting call drifts down from the deep woods. His mate is quietly snuggled down on her eggs in the large hole of a dead, hollow elm tree.
He will do much of the hunting for both of them until the 2 to 4 chicks from the white, unspotted eggs hatch in a few weeks.
Their habit of calling in the early evening and again in the early morning tends to ask, who-who are you? Who-who are you all?
In the summer these beautiful owls will catch and eat most anything that moves, including frogs, snakes, crawfish and large insects. For generation, farmers have known how important owls are for helping with pest control. A pair of large owls will eat thousands of mice, voles and rats in a year’s time.
Like their cousins the horned owls, the barred owls don’t seem to migrate south in the winter. An adult pair will live in the same area all year round.
There is much we can learn from the lifestyles of these wise birds of the night. They patiently watch and learn from the earth around them.
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