Dawn, dusk, and moonlit night visits may reward you with a seldom seen sight – an owl. The nesting season from April through June is a good time to spot or hear an owl.
Most owls are solitary birds of prey with large round heads and forward-facing eyes. Owls hunt mammals, birds, and insects mainly at night but some species are active during the day. Exceptional vision and hearing helps owls locate prey while perching patiently in wait. Soft feathers help owls fly silently to seize their prey with sharp talons. During the day owls use their cryptic colouration to wait quietly in a hidden location, often near the trunk of a tree with dense foliage. Other birds, which don’t like owls, noisily mob any resting owl they find during daytime.
WHAT OWL IS THAT? Four local species are shown here. You may also see: Great Horned Owl (very large), Northern Hawk Owl (crow-sized), and Northern Pygmy-owl (very small). At night, size and call are the best ways to tell owls apart.
Large, brown eyes, “bars” on chest, stripes on belly. Often hunts by day. Call is a loud booming “who cooks for you”.
GREAT GREY OWL
Very large, yellow eyes, grey colour, large facial discs, white “mustache”. Often hunts by day. Call is a soft low-pitched repeated hoot “whooo-ooo-oo-ooo”.
Robin-sized, light facial discs bordered by black, white spots on head. Call is a 4-5 note series of toots.
NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL
Very small, streaks on breast and head. Call is repeated whistled notes, similar to a file whetting a saw.
Did You Know?
Owls don’t make their own nests. Two local species use old stick nests built by hawks or natural platforms, and the others use old woodpecker cavities or natural cavities in trees.