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Who Gives a Hoot: Finding Owls

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Great Horned Owl
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Eastern Screech-Owl
Have you ever had an "owl experience," a magical moment when you saw or heard one of those mysterious hunters of the night? If you have, you have probably never forgotten it. During November, owls are very vocal at night, courting with their mates or advertising for a mate. You can take advantage of this and, by using the following tips, create your own "owl experience."

How to Find Owls
triangle picture Owls are most active and vocal on nights with little or no wind, especially when there is moonlight. On such a night, if you listen for owls in the right habitat, you may hear them.
triangle picture When driving at night, if you are lucky, you may see an owl flying across the road in front of you. It will appear pale and ghost-like in the beam of your headlights.
triangle picture Great Horned, Screech, and Barred Owls may respond to imitations of their calls, so if you imitate an owl, you may get it to approach you. Please limit your use of imitations, and if attracting owls with calls, try to keep your interactions with them brief; once they have approached, stop calling. They need to spend their time hunting.

Owl Habitat
Owls can be found in a number of different habitats. Generally, however, they all need trees in which to perch and open areas where they can hunt. Here is a quick guide to the favored habitats of the common owls.

triangle picture Great Horned Owls are not picky about where they live. They can be found in the middle of large forests, in small woodlots, in suburbs, or even in the desert.
triangle picture Both species of Screech-Owl tend to avoid deep woods, instead favoring swamps, trees near stream beds, and suburbs. The Western Screech-Owl may be found in the desert.
triangle picture The Barred Owl is most often found in pine woods, especially those with swamps.

Recognizing the Common Species
Great Horned Owl: very common throughout North America, it is recognized by:
triangle picture Large size—about 2 feet in length
triangle picture Prominent feather tufts on top of head
triangle picture Large yellow eyes
triangle picture Deep, booming hoots; sounds like "Whoo hoohoo, hoo, hoo"

Barred Owl: common in eastern and part of northwestern U.S., it is recognized by:
triangle picture Size—20 inches in length, or about the size of a crow
triangle picture Round head with no feather tufts on top
triangle picture Dark eyes
triangle picture Hoots at a higher pitch than Great Horned; sounds like "Who cooks for you, Who cooks for you-all" with the last note slurred downward.

Screech-Owl: two species, Eastern and Western; each is common in its half of the country. They are very similar in appearance and are recognized by:
triangle picture Small size: about 9 inches in length, or about Robin-sized
triangle picture Eastern may be either gray or red; Western is usually gray but some may be brown.
triangle picture Short feather tufts on head which are not always visible
triangle picture Yellow eyes
triangle picture Trilled whistle call: Eastern gives a descending whinny or a monotone trill; Western gives an accelerating monotone trill which sounds like a ping-pong ball bouncing.

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