The barred owl is a bird that we are more apt to hear than see in our backyards. Even in wild areas, it is a true will-o’-the-wisp. However, from December through March you are more apt to see or hear a barred owl than at any of other time of the year.
There are a couple of reasons for this. During the winter months, as food become scarcer, barred owl will expand their feeding territories to include residential areas. In addition, these large owls begin breeding in December. Consequently, the birds become more vocal. This special time of the year extends into February and March, with the peak occurring in mid-February and March.
Most Georgians are familiar with the owl’s Who cooks for you, who cooks for ya’ll call. However, since the barred owl has this most extensive range of calls of any of our owls, they also vocalize a collection of wails, gurgles, cackles and other strange sounds that just might raise the hair on the back of your neck. I have heard some people say the calls sounded like they were made by a band of monkeys. Others liken the calls to the sound made by a pack of baying hounds hot on the trail of a raccoon.
With that in mind, during the next few months take the time of venture out into your yard just as the sun melts below the horizon. Then pull up a lawn chair and listen. If any barred owls are nearby, you will soon hear the birds.
The best nighttime concerts take place when two birds are courting. These events often begin at twilight and extend well into the night. If you are lucky enough to hear the birds’ concert, it will be a show you will long remember.