Archive for Owls

Wood Duck juveniles 9/4/18

There are many drab young ducks around ponds and wetlands this time of year, but it’s only the young Wood Ducks sporting that bold white eyeliner. Within a day of hatching, the ducklings climb up to the nest opening and . . . jump. Often nests are built directly over water, but suitable cavity nests are rare, and many wind up being some distance away. A lot of a Wood Duck’s diet is found by foraging on land—seeds, berries, acorns, insects, as well as by dabbling for underwater shoots and aquatic invetebrates in the shallows. They get their name from the claws on their feet, which unlike all other North American ducks, allows them to perch in trees.

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Snowy Owl 4/11/18

It’s been another banner year for Snowy Owls in the US, with sightings especially abundant in the Northeast and Midwest. Even Texas got quite a show this winter. These are mostly younger birds not yet experienced enough to endure an Arctic winter. Already the northward migration has been underway for a couple of weeks. Looking a little ragged in the rain, this one atop a phone pole at Rye Harbor was still around as of last weekend.

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Barred Owl 3/14/18

Barred Owls are common in eastern North America and are also known as hoot owls and wood owls. They like open old growth woods where they can hunt small mammals and the occasional bird or herp.  They are tuftless or earless compared to say the Great Horned or Eastern Screech, some being more gray while others more brown. They belong to the genus Strix with 23 species worldwide and out west they are considered invasive for the negative competitive impact they’ve had on their smaller Spotted Owl cousins. With their big dark brown peepers, they’re one of just a few owl species that don’t have yellow eyes.

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Eastern Screech Owl (red morph) 12/21/17

There are a couple dozen screech owl species found in the Americas, all of them now considered different enough from their old world “scops owl” cousins to warrant their own genus “Megascops.” Contrary to their name, Eastern Screech Owls don’t screech. Instead they have a descending trill that’s reminiscent of a horse whinnying and another courting trill. Eastern Screeches come in 2 color morphs, red or gray (in southernmost Florida there’s a third rare brown morph). Except for occasionally finding one roosting on its doorstep like this, they’re strictly nocturnal and go unnoticed.

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Barred Owl 1/3/17

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I first saw this Barred Owl crossing the road inside Fort Foster then landing in a cherry thicket, and was able to creep up by staying behind a pine trunk. It’s only 10 or 12 feet above the ground, and as it perched was scanning the ground just below for voles and other rodents. The bloody spot on the curve of its beak spoke of a recent meal but apparently not a very filling one—this bird was definitely on the move and actively hunting. It’s not that unusual to spot one during the day. Depending where you live Barred Owls are also called Hoot Owls or Rain Owls and their 8-9 hoot call is usually paraphrased “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all.” where the you-all note descends and trails away. They are a common and good-sized owl, though not as big as the Great Horned, Great Gray, or Snowy, but they are the only owl that doesn’t have yellow eyes.

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Eastern Screech Owl red morph

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Eastern Screech Owls are woodland birds that come in either red or gray morphs as well as some intermediary brownish plumages. Mixed pairs do occur. They are stocky ear-tufted owls with yellow eyes and are only about 8 inches tall.

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Snowy Owl 12/18/15

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Snowy Owls began showing up on the New England Coast a couple weeks ago, and this winter looks to be the 3rd in a row with record numbers of young birds invading from the Arctic. The bird above has taken up residence at Ragged Neck (Rye Harbor SP), but is smaller and paler than the owl that was resident the previous 2 winters. To find this bird, simply look for the knot of photographers and owl enthusiasts and see what they’re all aimed at.

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