Daytime Owls

JEN ROSA, Naturalist Prairie Oaks

Barred owl in a snag at Blacklick Woods. (Terrence Peck)

It’s commonly believed that owls are nocturnal, but barred owls and short-eared owls prove to be exceptions. They tend to be active during the day, and if you know where to go and what to look for, you might just get a good view of them.

Short-eared owls migrate to Ohio in winter and are often seen at Prairie Oaks and Battelle Darby Creek Metro parks. You might see these agile flyers low above prairies and open fields as they hunt for mice and other rodents. They will hover above their prey then swoop down quickly to make their catch. Short-eared owls are also seen perched on bluebird boxes, stop signs, even on the ground.

Barred owls live in Ohio year round and they make their nest in large, hollowed out trees. Once you hear a barred owl’s call, you are unlikely to forget it. It sounds like “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?” When barred owls talk to each other, using strange hoots that sound like dogs barking or monkeys yelling, it is called caterwauling.

When you search for owls, look for a suitable tree that an owl might want to roost in, then keep your eyes open for pellets. Owls regurgitate their prey and sometimes you will find a big pile of owl pellets under the spot where the owl is roosting. Also look for white wash. When owls go to the bathroom it looks like white paint thrown on the ground.

On December 27 we will embark on a daytime hunt for barred owls at Prairie Oaks. Join us at 2pm at Darby Bend Lakes as we take a 1-mile walk along the creek looking for signs. We’ll try to call in a barred owl using recordings. With any luck an owl will hear us and fly in for a closer look. I have tried this many times at night with great success, but I’ve never tried it during the day. Will it work? I don’t know but we’ll give it a try and hoot for the best!