Laura’s Barred Owl

Laura's Barred Owl

Laura’s Barred Owl

Laura’s Barred Owl

Written by Laura, Certified Master Naturalist–Riverine Chapter

Since moving to our new home near the Pony Pasture section of the James River Park System I’ve often woken at night to hear the low, muffled notes of a Barred owl’s call.  I’ve encountered a few on walks.  But I had yet to host one at home.  Until the other day as I was hanging out laundry on the line and something caught my eye. I was being watched by a Barred owl roosting in an American holly tree, nicely camouflaged against an adjacent White oak.  We watched each other for quite some time, he or she languidly blinking at me.  I hoped it would stay until dusk, but it vanished within the hour.

A few facts about Barred owls (Strix varia).  They can be as large as 20 inches tall with wingspans up to four feet. They favor tree cavities for nesting and always live near water. They are solitary except when mating or raising young. Of course they have excellent night vision  and (I am editorializing now!) you don’t want to mess with that by disrupting their habitat, and their hunting, with bright outdoor lighting.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has NestWatch construction plans for Barred owl nesting boxes. Check it out: http://nestwatch.org/learn/nest-box-resource-center/nest-box-construction-plans/
I know what I’m asking for for Christmas! Every light pollution activist needs a resident owl.