Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet by David Marvin

Great Horned Owlet by David Marvin

David writes:

A Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) family has made Fenner Nature Center its home this spring. A wee downy owlet is currently hopping from tree branch to tree branch in the dense stand of white pine trees (Pinus strobus) on the northeast side of the property.

Video of the owlet and a couple brief appearances by its parents.

Due to the density of the foliage and the height at which the owls are perched, lighting has been a challenge when photographing and capturing video of these majestic birds.

Head over to David’s Flickr for more photos of this cute little ball of fluff!

More owls on Michigan in Pictures!

Support Michigan in Pictures with Patreon

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!

Fledge Season & Great Horned Owlets

Great Horned Owlets

Great Horned Owlets, photo by Kevin Povenz

April is the season for owls to fledge, or learn to fly. The Raptor Education Group from over in Wisconsin has a page about owlets that includes what to do if you come across one of these cute balls of fluff on the ground:

Great-horned Owls do not build their own nest. Instead, they choose an old nest of a crow, hawk, or even a squirrel to call their own.

When the young owls are 6-8 weeks old, they begin to venture from their nest. This is before they can actually fly. Nature’s method provides owlets opportunities to develop their leg muscles that will very soon be catching their own prey. In a natural setting owlets that appear to have fallen from their nest actually have fledged. In a natural wooded area, bushes and smaller trees provide a ladder of sorts and allow the chicks to climb to a higher perch until they can fly. When owls nest in a city with concrete below them rather than a soft forest floor, problems arise. That is also the case with a well-manicured park or lawn setting that has nothing that can function as a ladder for the tykes.

…If you find a young owl, leave it where it is, unless it is in imminent danger. Give us a call and let us help you decide if the adults are in attendance and the chick is just fledging naturally or if there is something wrong with the little one. Remember, owls are nocturnal for the most part and are not easy to see during daylight hours. Mom and dad could be very close and yet be so well camouflaged they are hard to see.

Michigan in Pictures has a feature on Great Horned Owls with a lot more about these birds!

View this on black, check out more from Kevin on Michigan in Pictures and definitely have a look at his great Birds of Prey slideshow.

Northern Hawk Owl, and the NMC Hawk Owls

northern hawk owl, chippewa county, michigan

northern hawk owl, chippewa county, michigan, photo by twurdemann

Northwestern Michigan College here in Traverse City has just under 5000 students and is turning from a 2 year to a 4 year college. As part of this, they will be adding athletics again, and that means they need a mascot. So this week they selected a new one – the NMC Hawk Owls.

With a weight of half a pound to a pound, a length of just 14-16″ and a wingspan of just under 2 1/2 feet, the Northern Hawk Owl appears to be the perfect mascot:

Northern Hawk Owl – Surnia ulula at OwlPages.com:

Hunting & Food: Takes mainly small mammals as prey, mostly lemmings and voles. Will also take birds, frogs and occasionally fish. Prey weight is normally below 70g. Hunts by searching from a lookout, then quickly flying to swoop down on prey. Has been observed hovering also.

Breeding: Male advertises potential nest sites, and the female selects one. Nests in Cavities on top of broken trunks, natural tree hollows, abandoned holes of large woodpeckers. Will accept nest boxes, and occasionally use a stick nest of a larger bird. Laying normally occurs in April and the first half of May. Clutch sizes are usually between 5 and 13 eggs, each 36-44mm  x 29-34.4mm. Eggs are laid at 1-2 day intervals, and incubated by the female alone for 25-30 days. During this time, the male feeds the female.

Northern Hawk-Owl at Wikipedia:

The Northern Hawk-Owl has been said to resemble a hawk in appearance and in behavior. In North America, its appearance in flight is often considered similar to a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). It has been suggested that this may be because the Hawk-Owl may partially fill an important diurnal niche similar to that of day hunters such as hawks.

…Northern Hawk Owls are unevenly distributed and highly variable throughout the boreal forest. They live mostly in open coniferous forests, or coniferous forests mixed with deciduous species such as larchbirchpoplar, and willow. They are found in muskegs, clearings, swamp valleys, meadows, or recently burnt areas, and generally avoid dense spruce-fir forests. Winter habitat is usually the same as breeding habitat. 

Northern Hawk Owl at All About Birds adds that their International conservation status is Least Concern and some cool facts:

  • The Northern Hawk Owl can detect prey by sight at a distance of up to 800 meters (half a mile).
  • Though it is thought to detect prey primarily by sight, the Northern Hawk Owl can find and seize prey under 30 cm (1 foot) of snow.

The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory adds that Northern Hawk Owl were observed yesterday in Trout Lake and Dryburg, Michigan.

Grabbing a mouse through a foot of snow? That’s a seriously scary predator … at least if you’re the prey. Click all those links to explore photos, calls and more about these tiny terrors.

Check this photo from Chippewa County out on black and see more including another shot of this owl in twurdemann’s Birds slideshow.

More owls (and also apparently words that end with owl) on Michigan in Pictures.