Wilder Side of Oakland County
Oakland County is home to the barred owl. This well-camouflaged raptor with soulful brown eyes and vertical stripes thrives in secrecy in wooded wetlands and the forest edge and is heard more often than seen. Its loud nine syllables rising and falling high-pitched hoots are unmistakable: “Who cooks for you? Whoooo cooks for you-all!” Naturalists love to share the fact that the owl song seems to have a southern drawl. And it does! And when several barred owls hoot back and forth the best description might just be monkeys chattering.
February is the peak of breeding season and even with woodlands deep with snow and temperature hovering in single digits barred owls are preparing nest sites; usually in tree cavities. These year round avian residents of Oakland County favor large protected parklands and wilder sections of the county; ideal habitat for hunting and breeding. Addison Oaks, Highland Oaks, Independence Oaks and Rose Oaks County Parks might just be at the top of their real estate listings.
Ornithology literature clearly states that barred owls hunt by night and roost on tree branches or in tree cavities by day. However the barred owl in these images was hunting in typical barred owl fashion late in the afternoon last week in northern Oakland County. The owl selects a tree limb that provides a bird’s eye view of a meadow or field and then it waits. And watches. And listens. The slightest sound or motion draws the owl’s attention.
When the owl is certain of the exact location of dinner – a mouse McMeal that may be moving under the snow- it glides down on silent wings and makes the kill. And after a successful hunt it’s time for a nap on a tree branch in the wilder side of Oakland County
Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer, Oakland County Parks www.destinationoakland.com