Of the eleven different Owl species that are seen in Ontario, the Barred Owl is probably my favourite for any number of reasons; they are somewhat active during the day, they move around regularly providing opportunities to see them in flight, they can be very noisy and provide lots of interesting sounds, and they are photogenic.
Barred Owls have very dark eyes (unlike any other North American Owl save the Barn Owl) and are a large bird up to 62 cm in length and a wingspan of 1-1.3 metres making the larger than a Red Tailed Hawk with a wingspan greater than a crow. Barred Owls have fairly weak talons and therefore prey on smaller animals such as mice, voles and squirrels although they will also eat small amphibians and birds as well. Barred Owls nest in natural tree cavities where the female lays 2-3 eggs requiring about thirty days to incubate. The female remains on the eggs for all of the incubation period and the male brings her food.
Although the Barred Owl is one of the more popular Ontario Owls they are still uncommon and their numbers in Southern Ontario are on the decline as urbanization destroys the deciduous woodland environment they require to thrive.
We are fortunate to have a Barred Owl pair not too far from home and it was a pleasure for my friend Don & I to spend a while with one of them this past Saturday morning. At one point as the Owl relocated to another hunting area he flew just above eye level within about twenty feet of us which was amazing to see. They are virtually silent in flight and maneuver effortlessly through the dense forest cover for such a large bird.
The following images were taken at 700mm (500/4 + 1.4x TC) using a mono-pod for support.
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