Barred owl sightings seem to be on the rise in our area. One of the reasons may be that more people have become interested in looking for, observing and photographing owls.
The barred owl is a nocturnal hunter, but this doesn’t mean you never see them resting during the day or catch them out and about at dawn and dusk. It’s possible to find them on the Lac Le Jeune Road as they emerge from the dark swampy forests and near the Kamloops airport from time to time. The barred owl’s prey is primarily mice, voles and small birds. Like other raptors, it likes to use fence posts to hunt from.
Barred owls are equipped with amazing senses to get around and survive in the darkness such as excellent hearing, night vision and silent flight. These owls’ eyes are very large and if you were to compare them to the size of a human object, they’d likely be the size of a baseball or even slightly larger. The owls eyes contain rods, just like our eyes do, that help them see in the dark. Rods help make up the eyes’ retina. Experts say that the barred owl has 1,000,000 rods per square millimetre and humans have only 200,000 per square millimetre.
You may have heard that owls can turn their heads all the way around and while watching them in the wild, you may think this is true. The owl does have the ability to turn its head much further than we can, but it cannot do a complete turn. A creature’s ability to turn its head has to do with the number of neck vertebrae it has. The barred owl has 14 neck vertebrae and humans have seven. An interesting side note to this is that giraffes also have seven vertebrae.
So why does the barred owl have so many vertebrae? Well, if we look at the owls’ eyes once again, we will see that they’re fixed in place and unable to move in their sockets. To get an idea of what this might be like, take a minute and look straight ahead of you and try not to move your eyes as you walk around. Pretty cool huh?
The barred owl is an expert silent flight hunter. The edges of its wings are serrated to reduce wind noise and when combined with the soft and lightweight texture of its feathers, it can sneak up on its prey with no trouble at all. The owl seen in this photo is pretty large, but amazingly it probably weighs just over one pound.
When out photographing owls, allow them the space they require to continue their hunting routine. Your photographs will be much more interesting if you can manage to snap a photo or two with a mouse in the owl’s beak, or an in flight action shot! Pressuring the owls for that close-up will only leave you disappointed as you watch your subject fly off.