Eight Hooter, Rain Owl, Wood Owl, Striped Owl, Barred Owl

Barred Owl, photo by Mark Miller

Those cool names are from the Wikipedia for the Barred Owl (Strix varia). The All About Birds page on Bard Owls says in part:

The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” (see video below) is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps. But this attractive owl, with soulful brown eyes and brown-and-white-striped plumage, can also pass completely unnoticed as it flies noiselessly through the dense canopy or snoozes on a tree limb. Originally a bird of the east, during the twentieth century it spread through the Pacific Northwest and southward into California.

Barred Owls live year-round in mixed forests of large trees, often near water. They tend to occur in large, unfragmented blocks of mature forest, possibly because old woodlands support a higher diversity of prey and are more likely to have large cavities suitable for nesting. Their preferred habitats range from swamps to streamsides to uplands, and may contain hemlock, maple, oak, hickory, beech, aspen, white spruce, quaking aspen, balsam poplar, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, or western larch.

Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. Of 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away. (In Michigan, the average range is about a mile)

 
View Mark’s photo bigger and see more in his In My Backyard slideshow.

More owls on Michigan in Pictures.

Hanging around with an Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl, photo by Kevin Povenz

All About Birds’ entry for the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) says in part:

If a mysterious trill catches your attention in the night, bear in mind the spooky sound may come from an owl no bigger than a pint glass. Common east of the Rockies in woods, suburbs, and parks, the Eastern Screech-Owl is found wherever trees are, and they’re even willing to nest in backyard nest boxes. These supremely camouflaged birds hide out in nooks and tree crannies through the day, so train your ears and listen for them at night.

The Eastern Screech-Owl is a short, stocky bird, with a large head and almost no neck. Its wings are rounded; its tail is short and square. Pointed ear tufts are often raised, lending its head a distinctive silhouette.

Eastern Screech-Owls can be either mostly gray or mostly reddish-brown (rufous). Whatever the overall color, they are patterned with complex bands and spots that give the bird excellent camouflage against tree bark. Eyes are yellow.

Eastern Screech-Owls are active at night and are far more often heard than seen—most bird watchers know this species only from its trilling or whinnying song. However, this cavity-roosting owl can be attracted to nest boxes or, if you’re sharp-eyed, spotted in daylight at the entrance to its home in a tree cavity.

Read on for more including screech owl calls.

View Kevin’s photo bigger and see more in his massive Birds of Prey slideshow.

More owls on Michigan in Pictures.

Groundhog Warning!

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl, photo by Kevin Povenz

Any Michigan groundhogs out there probably better just stay inside and check to see what Woody the Woodchuck from the Howell Nature Center predicts. Word is already in from Punxsutawney Phil that we’re in for an early Spring!

You can learn all about Michigan groundhogs/woodchucks and Woody, Michigan’s official groundhog and snowy owls on Michigan in Pictures. One thing about snowy owls that you may not know is that due to their remote existence, they typically don’t have the same fear of humans that other owls exhibit.

Kevin took this gorgeous photo on Saturday near Sault Ste Marie and writes:

Yes I was laying down on my belly in the snow to get this shot. Not the sharpest of shots as there were weeds between me and this snowy and was hard to focus. Should of used manual focus, but I loved the moment. He just kept looking at me probably thinking “what the…?”

View his photo bigger and see more in his Birds of Prey slideshow.

Know your Michigan Birds: Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl by Kevin Povenz

Eastern Screech Owl, photo by Kevin Povenz

The Owl Pages says (in part) that the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio):

…is a small, nocturnal woodland Owl with short ear-tufts and yellow eyes. There is a greyish-brown, red and grey morph, with intermediates also occurring. The word “asio” is Latin for ‘Horned Owl’. Eastern Screech Owls have also been called the Common Screech Owl, Ghost Owl, Dusk Owl, Little-eared Owl, Spirit Owl, Little Dukelet, Texas Screech-Owl, Whickering Owl, Little Gray Owl, Mottled Owl, Red Owl, Mouse Owl, Cat Owl, Shivering Owl, and the Little Horned Owl.

…A nocturnal bird, with activity beginning after sunset. The Eastern Screech-Owl flies fairly rapidly with a steady wingbeat (about 5 strokes/second). They rarely glide or hover, but may fly with erratic movements, when manoeuvring through wooded areas. Their wings are broad and the head is held tucked in giving the bird a stubby appearance when flying.When threatened, an Eastern Screech Owl will stretch its body and tighten its feathers in order to look like a branch stub to avoid detection, but will take flight when it knows it has been detected. In open roosts, gray-phase birds tend to roost next to a tree trunk, whereas red-phase birds tend to roost in outer foliage, possibly because of thermal requirements.

…Eastern Screech Owls hunt from dusk to dawn, with most hunting being done during the first four hours of darkness. They hunt mainly from perches, occasionally hovering to catch prey. This Owl mainly hunts in open woodlands, along the edges of open fields or wetlands, or makes short forays into open fields. When prey is spotted, the Owl dives quickly and seizes it in its talons. They will also capture flying insects on the wing.

…Breeding season for Eastern Screech Owls is generally around mid April, but may range from mid March to mid May. They have an elaborate courtship ritual. Males approach females, calling from different branches until they are close. The male then bobs and swivels his head, bobs his entire body, and even slowly winks one eye at the female. If she ignores him, bobbing and swivelling motions intensify. If she accepts him, she moves close and they touch bills and preen each other.

… Eastern Screech Owls inhabit open mixed woodlands, deciduous forests, parklands, wooded suburban areas, riparian woods along streams and wetlands (especially in drier areas), mature orchards, and woodlands near marshes, meadows, and fields. They will avoid dense forests because Great Horned Owls use that habitat. They will also avoid high elevation forests. Eastern Screech Owls roost mainly in natural cavities in large trees, including cavities open to the sky during dry weather. In suburban and rural areas they may roost behind loose boards on buildings, boxcars, or water tanks. They will also roost in dense foliage of trees, usually on a branch next to the trunk, or in dense scrubby brush.

Read on for lots more about screech owls and definitely make owlpages.com your go-to for all things owlish (including screech owl gear).

View Kevin’s photo bigger on Flickr, see a lot more in his fantastic Birds of Prey slideshow and follow him at Kevin Povenz Photos on Facebook.

Snowy Topper

Michigan Snowy Owl Winter

snowy12-28-4, photo by Dan Lockard

What’s on top of your tree this year? Right now in the Absolute Michigan photo group, we’re seeing a ton of snowy owls. While these arctic owls are not found in the summer, we are in their winter range, as the Michigan DNR’s Winter Visitors page shares:

Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of these species can be found in Michigan.

Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time.

Friday’s Sault Star reported that about three dozen snowys were sighted during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird count on December 20th. That’s more than average. We’ll know if this is an irruption year after all the bird count numbers are released in January.

View Dan’s photo taken near Muskegon background big and see lots more (including a couple shots of the great gray owl) in his awesome Owls slideshow.

Lots more snowy owl pictures & information (including a couple more by Dan) in the Michigan in Pictures archives!

Crosseyed & Snowblind

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl, photo by Sherri & Dan

Enough with the vortexes already.

Sherry & Dan took their photo of a snowy owl near Muskegon. background bigtacular and see more in their 100+ photo Owls slideshow.

More about snowy owls on Michigan in Pictures.

Let’s Do Lunch (Snowy Owl Style)

Snowy Owl 1

Snowy Owl 1, Sherri & Dan

Dan Lockard captured a cool sequence last weekend of a snowy owl on the hunt. View his photo background big, watch the hunt (which doesn’t end well for Mr. Mouse) or check out his owls slideshow.

The Owl Pages entry for the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) says in part:

The Snowy Owl is a large diurnal white Owl with a rounded head, yellow eyes and black bill. The name “scandiacus” is a Latinised word referring to Scandinavia, as the Owl was first observed in the northern parts of Europe. Some other names for the Snowy Owl are Snow Owl, Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Ghost Owl, Ermine Owl, Tundra Ghost, Ookpik, Scandinavian Nightbird, White Terror of the North, and Highland Tundra Owl.

…Most hunting is done in the “sit and wait” style. These Owls are highly diurnal, although they may hunt at night as well. Prey are captured on the ground, in the air, or snatched off the surface of water bodies. When taking snowshoe hares, a Snowy Owl will sink its talons into the back and backflap until the hare is exhausted. The Owl will then break its neck with its beak. Snowy Owls have been known to raid traplines for trapped animals and bait, and will learn to follow traplines regularly. They also snatch fish with their talons. Small prey up to small hares are swallowed whole, while larger prey are carried away and torn into large chunks. Small young are fed boneless and furless pieces. Large prey are carried of in the Owl’s talons, with prey like lemmings being carried in the beak.

…Snowy Owls produce large, rough-looking cylindrical pellets with numerous bones, feathers, and fur showing. They are usually expelled at traditional roosting sites and large numbers of pellets can be found in one spot. When large prey are eaten in small pieces with little roughage, pellets will not be produced.

Read on for much more about these winter visitors, who the DNR explain migrate to Michigan in wintertime and have been sighted as far south as Lansing. They add that because snowy owls see few if any humans in their Arctic home, they are not very timid and easier to observe than other owl species.

More Michigan owls on Michigan in Pictures!