Did you know that the Arboretum is home to a variety of species of owls? Although not year round residents, the Eastern Screech, Great Horned, Barred, Long-eared, Short- eared, and Northern Saw-whet owls have all been sighted in our very own Arboretum. Of these, the two that regularly nest in the Arb are the Great Horned Owl and the Barred Owl.
Sighting owls can be difficult and requires quite a bit of patience. Your best bet may be to listen for their distinctive calls. The Great Horned Owl is often called the “hoot owl,” known for its classic hoot. Other owls, like the Barn Owl, have a terrifying screech, which can be quite frightening. And finally, some owls are said to bark, while others are said to whistle. So getting familiar with their calls is one of the easiest ways to identify and locate owls.
However, at this time in the year, the Arboretum owls are likely quite silent. Many have set up camp, or in other words, built their nests for the season. Some owlets may even have already have been born! But if you are itching to go out and look for these incredible creatures, one good thing to look for is white wash on the bark of trees. Because many owls like to perch in the same spot, they will leave what is called “white wash” on the tree from their excrement. You can also look for owl pellets often found lying around perch sites. Pellets are dark and round, filled with the bones, fur, and other indigestible parts of the owl’s prey that they regurgitate after swallowing whole.
So while these silently flying creatures may be difficult to spot, anyone who encounters an owl will find it well worth it. I wish you all the best of luck in your search!