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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Watchful eyes: Owls of the Cowling Arboretum

<ast week, the Student Naturalists were fortunate enough to meet with Gene Bauer, longtime birding adventurer. He shared with us the secrets of one of the Arb’s most elusive groups: the Strigidae, or more commonly, the owls. While these creatures are both beautiful and fascinating, the fact remains that they are far more likely to spot us than we are them. Here are some helpful tips for where, how and when to spot the owls of the Arb. A general rule of thumb: check for owl pellets around the base of trees. This is usually a good indication one of our feathered friends may be nearby.

The Barred Owl (Strix varia) is a year-round resident, preferring to roost in the cavities of old trees, deep within the upland woods. A nesting pair can often be spotted in the spring in Stork Forest, while others can be found scattered throughout the floodplains and the cemetery off Hall Ave. Its call is said to mimic the phrase “who cooks for you.”

The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) can also be found year round, but prefers more open woods. Great Horned owls do not build their own nests, preferring to use those of the Red-tailed Hawk. The two species might even use them in the same year, but the young owls, hatched in early spring, will be fledged long before the hawks return. It has a very deep, “classic” hoot.

The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) will likely be found in between the fall and spring. Those in the Arb will most likely be a smoky grey. They are cavity nesters, prefer open woodland, and are much smaller than the first two owls on this list. They are very rarely spotted, but their call sounds soft and low, until alarmed, whereupon they live up to their name. These owls mate for life.

Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegeolius acadicus) are uncommon, seen only in the winter. Long-eared Owls (Asio otus) have only been recorded in the spring and prefer very dense stands of pine. Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) are birds of the prairie, and have a distinct, almost fluttering flight. They roost in pines. Very rarely, young Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) come through the area. Seeing one would be a very special treat indeed!

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