Barred Owls and My Experience During the Pandemic

My Connection with Solitary Birds While Being a Homebody

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Barred owls are one of my favorite birds because they’re with me wherever I go.

You can say they’re my kindred animal spirits.

Living in the beautiful Hudson Valley, where I’m spending my time during the pandemic, are the same places barred owls like.

Barred owls are solitary birds, and these days I relate to being isolated, staying home, and not traveling far.

Though my lack of traveling is temporary this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, barred owls rarely travel far throughout their lifetime.

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Barred owls fly away at the least disturbance, seldom tolerating close approach

Barred Owl Environment

I’ve been hiking throughout the pandemic to unplug from the news and keep my sanity, usually in forests filled with evergreen trees and broad-leaved-trees with dense foliage bordering lakes, streams, and swamps.

Or walking in great meadows or open country.

Always in light or preferably no foot traffic.

And like an owl with its feathers as camouflage, my face mask cloaks my identity.

Sharing Traits with Barred Owls

When a barred owl sits on its well-hidden perch to avoid harm, it flies away at the least disturbance.

Like the barred owl, I seldom tolerate the close approach of others.

There is no sneaking up on this owl. These birds know you’re coming.

The owl’s beautiful, huge, dark eyes provide it with telescopic vision and the bird can sit for hours scouring its territory. 

Little escapes their field of view because these birds can rotate their heads almost all the way around.

When most birds quiet down after dark, owls play a starring role in the night shift.

And that’s when the magic happens.

Like an owl, I come to life at dusk when the temperatures are cooler.

I thrive in the nighttime hours, so you can say I’m a human owl, that doesn’t eat meat. (I’m a vegan).

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Barred owls hunt during overcast weather, as well as at dawn and dusk

Speaking Barred Owl Language

If I’m outside at night during courtship time, I hear the male barred owl’s caterwauls and chimpanzee-like calls.

Seconds later, I hear the female barred owl’s high-pitched response.

If my neighbor is close by, I’ll remark, “Did you just hear that barred owl?”

The response is always, “Nope, didn’t hear a thing.”

The owl’s high-pitched call is so loud, how couldn’t he hear it?

My neighbor is proof that we only hear what we want to hear.

Barred owls are famously and uproariously vocal.

Most Recognizable Call

These owls have one of the most instantly recognizable calls of any owl, who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-aaalll.”

Walking on a dense forest trail during a cloudy day, I hear the dueling barred owls calling back and forth “who-cooks-for-you,” and as one owl calls, another in the distance responds.

Both sexes make this call, but according to the Peterson Reference Guide to Owls, the female barred owl’s calls are higher-pitched than those of the male and may be slower in pace.

I’ve even mimicked their calls, and in a few seconds, they call back.

But once they break into another one of their complex vocalizations, and they have 13 of them, I’m caught, and they know I’m not a barred owl.

Barred owl vocal duets are incredible to experience, and I refer to them as owl opera.

The barred owls create a layer of hooting and caterwauling, that sounds like a fight over territory.

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Their flight is described as light, buoyant, and noiseless

Gift of Silent Flight

Where the barred owl truly impresses is in their light, buoyant and noiseless flight.

Barred owls are large and stocky with a wingspan up to 44 inches, yet these owls glide gracefully and skillfully in the forest without making a noise.

This fact just adds to the wonder of these birds and why we love them so much.

Barred owls are widespread and common across the U.S. and part of Canada, although a loss of swamp habitat has their numbers declining in parts of the south.

But barred owls are expanding their range in northwest, and competing with Spotted Owls.

Rodenticide Poisoning

Barred owls are living closer to humans, and we pose a great risk to them using rat poison (rodenticide), especially second-generation rat poison that kills our birds of prey.

As these owls fulfill their role as nature’s pest control eating rodents, they pay the ultimate price as victims of second-generation rodenticides.

When a rodent eats second-generation rodenticide, it kills them slowly, and they keep coming back and eating more long after they’ve ingested a lethal dose.

That means these rodents contain many times more than a lethal dose, and these time bombs stumble around for 3-4 days as easy prey and are deadly to predators, scavengers, and pets.

Please think before putting rodenticide in the environment.

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Rodenticide poisoning is dangerous for all living things, not just birds.

Seeing Barred Owls

Although barred owls are often easier to hear than see, this is one owl that you can spot close to home.

First, learn as much as you can about the species and their behavior.

This will help when trying to spot them I the wild, and if you’re lucky, take a few photos from afar.

One of the best ways to locate owls is by listening for them. Do some birding-by-ear to pinpoint their locations.

Venture out, listen for the calls, and then look for nests, place where the owls perch, where they sleep, and what time they emerge to hunt.

You might be surprised at what you see.

And you might be lucky enough to see the owl cast a pellet.

Now that I feel a kinship to these birds, since the owl and I have become neighbors, I encourage you be respectful of these birds.

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When we protect the birds, we protect the earth. Please do you best to coexist with our avian friends

Follow Ethical Birding Guidelines

If an owl flies off when you are near and doesn’t come back until you leave, it’s a good indication to stay away from this spot.

The owl may be nesting, and you don’t want to unknowingly disrupt feeding or expose the nesting owlets to predators.

The barred owls have been my peeps throughout this pandemic, and for as much joy and comfort as they have given me, I want to pay it forward and return the favor.

Protect the birds, and we protect the earth. Please, let’s coexist!

Each year we sponsor an Eastern Screech Owl with our favorite wildlife rehabilitator and pay for a year’s supply of its food.

So please support intoBirds by visiting our Etsy shop.We create handmade bird-themed items like wood bird journals and stickers to help support the causes we care about the most.

We’d like to raise money to cover operating costs for these amazing organizations that save and rehabilitate birds.

We’d like to step up and do more and created an Etsy store as a way to help raise funds. Visit our Etsy store here.

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  1. Love, love, love the Barred Owl. I too am blessed to have them nearby. I love to hear them at night when they call back and forth. There was one in my yard on the edge of the woods that I did not see but he left flying by me so close I could have touched him. Silent, large wingspan, beautiful bird!!!

    • Hi Victoria. We love Barred Owls too. When we’re hiking and it’s overcast they’re so active and respond to our calls. We love hearing them call back and forth at night too. It’s amazing such a large owl can be so silent in flight!

  2. Great post Renee. Learned a lot on this one. Going to Dendroica shortly to hear some vocals.

    I have a different picture of a White-Throated Sparrow that you might be interested in. The hotel where I live had 7 migratory window strike victims this year. The staff were kindly agreeable to me applying some preventative measures to the windows.

    I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, so I don’t know how to send you the photos. I do have Private Instagram: Davidbond766. My email is:
    dbl-ought@outlook.com.

    • Thanks David. We’d love to see your White-throated Sparrow photo! We can’t wait to see them again this fall. I’ll message you on Instagram. Our handle is @intobirds.

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