These cold spring nights bring the nocturnal world to our window but fall muted on doubled paned glass and shades pulled tight. The night snow squeaks, the branches crack, and the owls begin to bark, hoot, cwaw, and scree in the night. The Barred owl is a nocturnal hunter the size of a fat house cat who sits close to the tree trunk by day and is passed a hundred times by forward looking humans. Beginning as early as January Barred owls begin to court and build a nest. Typically in “low bottom” woods adjacent to beaver dammed ponds and flooded fields they nest in trees, cavities, or snags and build sticks nests in both hard wood and conifer trees.
Come May and June noisy young owls will cut the night air with a series of witchy screeches and hisses. For now the adults can be heard calling back and forth with the characteristic phrase “who cooks for you… who cooks for you allllll…”. Unlike the Great horned owl the hoot of the Barred owl is more dog than haunted house hoot owl. Also, listen for a “hooo – wahhh” call.
Barred owls hunt by sound and with asymmetric ears they can place a noise in both direction and depth. When the snow is still on the ground and before the night air has been taken over by frogs and crickets take a late night or predawn walk along a wooded road and listen for this addition to the winter soundscape.