Ever heard the call “who-cooks-for-you” on a spring or summer evening? If so, you have been listening to the hoot of the barred owl, which also produces calls that sound like squirrel barks, monkey hoots and screams.
Barred owls are large owls, standing about 20 inches high and weighing 2 pounds, with a wingspan of 44 inches. They have brown eyes, and lack the ear tufts present in other Maryland owls, such as the great horned owl or the Eastern screech owl. They are mostly gray and brown, with feathers on their chest and belly that form brown and white bars and lengthwise streaks.
For the most part, barred owls will feed on small creatures such as mice, voles, rabbits, flying squirrels, snakes, frogs, insects or other small birds. They have even been known to wade into shallow water to capture small fish or young terrapins. Their hunting skills are greatly enhanced by the structure of their feathers, which allow them to fly silently.
The barred owl prefers to live in mature oak forests, but is also found throughout the mixed pine-hardwood forests and low, wet woodlands of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They build their nests in hollow trees and usually lay two to four eggs in late February which hatch in May.
Photo of Barred Owl (Strix varia)
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