WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” That’s the classic ghostly call of the Barred Owl, an owl very much at home in Oakland County. The rising and falling melody with a hint of a southern drawl in the last few syllables reminds naturalists that the owl’s breeding season is here. Yet, others less admiring of the raucous chorus of barred owls hooting back and forth may describe the sounds as the music of a troop of rowdy monkeys. That description is very close to the truth.
Follow the Cornell Lab of Ornithology link to hear the calls of barred owls: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/search/?q=barred%20owl%20soundsowl/sounds
Every now and then, a hiker might hear or even see a barred owl perched on a tree limb in daylight. Oakland County Parks, Huron-Clinton Metroparks and the State Recreation Areas of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (located in Oakland County) all host these beautiful raptors of the night. Barred owls favor wooded wetlands with nearby open areas for hunting; that means trailside swaths of Addison Oaks, Highland Oaks, Independence Oaks, Lyon Oaks, Rose Oaks and Springfield Oaks county parks are perfect barred owl habitats.
These large-sized owls usually nest in hollow trees close to swamps or creeks, but sometimes they take over and remodel the old nest of a crow or a hawk found in the uplands. Northern Oakland County is premier barred owl territory. All the photos are from the edge of my woods in Brandon Township. However, I have had also had daylight encounters with barred owls at the Ortonville State Recreation Area, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and way down south at Congaree National Park in the swamp lands of South Carolina. All three locations include wooded wetlands.
In winter, barred owls turn their attention to the movements of mice and voles and the occasional careless squirrel or rabbit, but their diet is a cornucopia of critters. They are still hunters and find a tree limb to perch on that overlooks a likely place for prey. The slightest movement or sound under the snow draws attention; in silent flight they glide to the ground and make the kill with sharp talons. Unfortunately, sometimes their hunt ends poorly and they become prey of the larger Great Horned Owl.
When warmer weather returns, some barred owls fish for their food at the water’s edge and take frogs, salamanders and even fish. Chipmunks, opossums and birds as big as grouse all fall prey to this opportunist hunter. Sometimes ruffed grouse mistakenly draw the attention of hungry barred owls when the strut and drum their wings on moss covered logs in an attempt to attract a mate.
Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks. firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Oakland County Parks for details on the trails of all 13 Oakland County Parks.
6 thoughts on “Barred Owls: Ghostly Voice of the Swamp”
[…] Park. The park is a swampy habitat for alligators, rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. Barred owls and bobcats live there too. Mysterious splashes in murky shallows may be from river otters, […]
[…] for bluebirds that seem to always know joy and warble to the seasons. I am thankful for the barred owls that enliven my wooded swamp, and coyotes that yip in the night. I am thankful for the giant oaks […]
[…] for bluebirds that seem to always know joy and warble to the seasons. I am thankful for the barred owls that enliven my wooded swamp. I am thankful for the coyotes that yip in the night. I am thankful […]
[…] ends, some Great Horned Owls will be on their nests. Much to the pleasure of birders the enigmatic Barred Owl, a ghost of the swamps, can sometimes be seen in the daylight hours perched near meadows and […]
[…] The list of creatures that relish this amphibian is long and includes: raccoons, opossums, barred owls, great blue herons, snapping turtles, northern water snakes, bigger bullfrogs and […]
[…] attacks. Their crepuscular activities also make them vulnerable to attacks by Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls, especially when they loiter a bit too long at dusk. Northern pike will swallow gray squirrels too, […]