Category Archives: Owls

New England Owls: Barred Owl

Photo of Barred Owl

Most birders will agree that any day they see an owl is a good day. Last week, I had two such "good days" when I saw one Barred Owl under cover of darkness and another after sunrise just four days later. I've observed a number of Barred Owls over the past decade, from a moonlit adult investigating my odd hooting attempts to a fluffy juvenile begging in late spring to an adult eating an Eastern Chipmunk in mid-summer to a handful of individuals hunting from roadside* perches during the white season. And, of course, I've enjoyed a number of "heard only" adults hooting alone or dueting at various times of year.

To view the following images in full-size, click here.

*No doubt a risky place to be. Two October's ago, I found a deceased Barred Owl at the edge of a road. Not exactly a "good day".

White Season Birds: Snowy Owl

Photo of Snowy Owl

Most years, at least some Snowy Owls fly south from their arctic breeding grounds to spend the white season in New England. During irruptions, such as the one that occurred the winter of 2013-14, Snowy Owls are common in their favored habitats (coastal marshes and open country, including airports, often near saltwater). While the 2015-16 season has not been a banner year for this species (in New England), a number of these diurnal owls are around (this range map shows all eBird Snowy Owl reports for the current year). Last month, I photographed a yawning bird (see below) on a rooftop overlooking Wells Beach; the other images were taken in Biddeford Pool in previous seasons. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

Owl Sounds: Barred Owl

I encountered a Barred Owl for the first time many years ago, while staying at a campground on Long Lake in Bridgton, Maine. It was the middle of the week and early in the camping season, so I was one of few humans around. Along a dirt trail to the beach, something made me pause and look up.  I couldn't believe my eyes: on a tree branch just a few feet above the trail, was a large owl.

I don't recall now if I even knew what kind of owl it was at first.  What I did know is that this would prove to be a memorable camping trip. During the rest of my stay, I heard loud hooting (mostly at night, but a few times during the day) and saw the owl a couple more times, once as he/she consumed a meal of fresh chipmunk.

Hearing Barred Owls always brings me back to that camp, on the shores of that lake. Here are two audio clips that I recorded last December of Barred Owls here in Plainville. Have you ever heard these hooting calls?

Spectrogram of Barred Owl


Spectrogram of Barred Owls

Owl Sounds: Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owls are one of the more frequently heard hooting owls.  In early January, I listened to a pair of Great Horned Owls hooting at first light. I extracted the audio below from a recording of that pair. This sample is no substitute for the real thing, but it nonetheless conveys the tempo and tone of their vocalizations. The spectrogram depicts the two different owl voices – the male (lower) and female (higher).

Spectrogram of Great Horned Owl duet

Owl Sounds: Eastern Screech-Owl

Photo of Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owls may be the most common owls in eastern Massachusetts, but their vocalizations are not as well-known as the loud hoots of the larger Barred and Great Horned Owls.  The audio sample and spectrogram below are of an Eastern Screech-Owl who I recorded earlier this winter.  If you heard this whinny call outside your window at night, would you guess that a small owl was the source of the sound?

Spectrogram of EASOwhinny