Written by Jessica Blosberg, Environmental Education Intern
Quietly soaring between trees in the uplands and swamps of Florida, a feathered creature alights on a branch and hoots, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?” He settles down for the day to roost. His big brown eyes close as he snoozes off to sleep. From the white and brown vertical bars on his chest, he is known as a barred owl.
He is not the biggest of the owls, and is careful not to cross the one who is. He is always watching out for his predator, the great horned owl. As evening falls, he is getting hungry. He starts to think of where to hunt for rodents or small birds. If the first area does not work, he will search for fish, amphibians, or reptiles, instead. Feeling safe at the moment, but needing to find a new place to hunt for the evening, he spreads his wings with their feathered tips and silently swoops off.
In a nearby barn, another figure is calmly scanning a field for unsuspecting mice to come out of hiding for the night. Her big white face shines like the moon; she hides in the shadows, so her tan feathers on her wings will not give her away. Suddenly, the barn owl spots movement. A bat, rather than a mouse, has come out for the evening. This is a rare find for the owl. She prepares for the hunt. The owl spreads her long, rounded wings that span four feet and dives after the bat. Successful, she brings the bat back to her nest. She has been carefully making this nest by clawing at her own regurgitated pellets and forming a cup for her eggs. Soon, she will be catching and storing food for herself during the nesting time. For now, she is free to hunt at night.
Although their names are similar, and they share some characteristics, barred and barn owls are very different birds. Both roost during the day and hunt at night, hunt small rodents, and are non-migratory.
However, the barred owl lives and hunts in more forested areas, while the barn owl lives in old buildings, such as barns and silos, and hunts in open areas, such as fields and marshes. The barred owl, while not the largest owl, is still bigger than the barn owl.
The barred owl reaches a length of approximately 1½ to 2 feet, a wingspan ranging from 3 to 3½ feet, and a weight of approximately 2 to 3 pounds. The smaller barn owl has a length ranging from 1 to 1½ feet, a wingspan of 4 to 5 feet, and a weight of 1 to 1½ pounds.
As well as being raptors and owls, both of these incredible creatures can also be found throughout Florida and the United States and are vital to the ecosystem of the area.
The Conservancy is lucky to have an ambassador Barred owl on exhibit at our von Arx Wildlife Viewing Pavilion! To meet our new resident ambassador and learn more about native raptors here in Southwest Florida, come visit our Nature Center!