Owls of North Florida (2023)

Owls of North Florida (1)

All across the wilderness of North Central Florida, the questions echo in the night. "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?"

No, it's not an inquiring chef, but rather one of the region's noisiest residents. The barred owl, one of the largest species of owls in Florida, bellows a mating call that sounds as if it is posing these two questions time after time, all night long, along the lakes, rivers and streams of North Florida.

The barred owl is one of more than 160 species of owls worldwide today, with 20 varieties native to North America. The barred owl is one of five species that finds the environs of Florida agreeable for its habitat. The great horned owl, a large species, and the Eastern Screech owl, one of the smallest species, also make their home in the wilderness of North Florida. The barn owl and the burrowing owl are also residents of Florida, but mainly live in the southern half of the peninsula.

Very inquisitive

The barred owl is the image most people conjure when they think of birds of the night in Florida - due in part to its distinct call but also to its ability to live in developed areas.

"The barred owl is the most common owl because they are the most adaptable," says Leslie Straub, director at Florida Wildlife Care, a wild-animal refuge at Boulware Springs in southeast Gainesville. "They are also very noisy."

Mark Hostetler, a professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida and an expert on owls, calls the barred owl one of this area's most talkative birds. They also have a unique personality, he says.

"They are very inquisitive," Hostetler says. "If you can mimic their call, they will call back."

Barred owls are also distinctive in that they do not migrate during the seasons and they are monogamous, he says.

"Owl pairs will stay in the same area if they have successful mating," he says.

(Video) Owls of Florida

Much misunderstood

In general, the legend of the noisy, nocturnal owl has both complicated and misunderstood. The owl has long been touted as mystic and wise because of its brooding stature and large eyes, leading to misconceptions about the birds.

In early Indian folklore, owls represented wisdom and supposedly enjoyed powers of prophecy. In the Middle Ages and during the first settlements in the United States, the owl was associated with black magic and witches, also a result of its eyes and nocturnal hunting.

During pioneer days, the sight of an owl was a bad omen. Owls were a curse, Straub says.

These superstitions have generally diminished, but today the owl remains a sorcerous creature, thanks primarily to the Harry Potter series and Tootsie Roll lollipop campaigns.

While there is suggestion that owls eat lollipops (with only three licks to get to the center) and hunt with black magic, they hunt and eat like most other carnivorous animals. The owl is a raptor, or bird of prey, meaning it hunts other animals for its food, Straub explains.

"Owls will generally eat small mammals and rodents," she says. "They hunt by themselves and have a broad prey species."

The barred owl and the Eastern Screech owl typically feed on small rodents. The great horned owl, however, is known to eat larger animals such as chickens and may even prey on other owls.

"Owls are aggressive hunters," says Straub, who is one of two experts on raptors who work for Florida Wildlife Care.

Silent fight

(Video) Explorers' Academy: Florida's Owls

The owl is a unique species of bird, primarily because of its bone and body structure. The eyes, which collect 10 times the amount of light as humans, are fixed forward. Because their eyes cannot move from side to side, they have a rare bone structure in their neck, allowing them to turn to see their prey, Straub says.

"They have more bones in their neck than any other living animal," Straub says. "They can turn their neck almost completely around."

Another unique feature of the owl is its soft feathers, which make no noise when the owl is flying, Straub says.

The owl is primarily a nocturnal hunter, with the exception of the barred owl, which can be seen hunting in the early hours of the morning, she says. The barred owl can be found nesting in damp forests, mostly near water. You can hear barred owls hooting incessantly at night along the Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers. The great horned owl can be found perched in nests atop pine trees, and screech owls typically live in oak trees and can be found in open grasslands such as Paynes Prairie.

What has made the owl so distinct is its unique mating and territorial calls. Owls are known mainly for their hoot calling. However, for many species, such as the Eastern Screech Owl, the hoot is not the primarily vocalization.

Because they are a predatory species and have no species preying on them, it is typical for an owl to survive eight to 10 years in the wild. In captivity, an owl can live much longer, Hostetler says. While owls have no natural predators in the wild, they do fall prey to man, often colliding with cars.

Few owls are found in captivity because it is illegal to possess an owl unless it has been injured. Jack Brown, instructor at the Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo, says the zoo's owls all are amputees. "They have lost a wing or half of a wing," he explains.

With the large number of owls in North Florida, it is not unusual to spot an owl gliding through the treetops or in an open field. Generally if there is any water source nearby, you may spot a barred, screech or great horned owl in a forest or maybe perched in a pine or oak tree in a pasture.

And if you hear that question about cooking, you can bet a barred owl is not far away.

BARRED OWL Size: 16-25 inches tall; wingspan: 40-50 inches; weight: 18-37 ounces

(Video) Barred Owl Calls

Appearance: Gray-brown owl with white barring on chest

Habitat: Moist woodlands, along rivers and streams. They can be found in nests in trees, usually by water.

Call: Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?

Feeding: Small vertebrates. They also feed on small birds, small reptiles and insects.

Breeding: Monogamous, year-round courtship. Breeding occurs in winter months and female lays 2-4 white eggs.

Lifespan: Can live up to 23 years in captivity and 10 years in the wild.

GREAT HORNED OWL Size: 18-25 inches; wingspan 36-60 inches; weight 32-63 ounces

Appearance: Vary in color from a reddish brown to a gray or black and white. They have tufts of feathers that appear to be "horns." sometimes called "ear tufts"

Habitat: Low, dry areas. Can be found in pine trees, usually in abandoned hawks nests.

Call: The common "Hoo Hoo Hoot."

(Video) OWL Sounds | Different Types of Owls and Their Sounds

Feeding: An array on invertebrates, sometimes much larger than itself, including chickens. They will also hunt each other.

Breeding: In winter months, two eggs normally. Very aggressive, will defend its nest at any means necessary.

Lifespan: Usually 13 years in the wild, while 25 years in captivity. Besides man, it has no natural enemy aside from itself.

EASTERN SCREECH OWL Size: Small species, 8.5 inches; wingspan 20 inches; weight 7 ounces

Appearance: Red or gray variation.

Habitat: They often live in holes of oak trees near open pastures, an be spotted in suburban areas and golf courses.

Call: Strange, piercing scream.

Feeding: Small rodents like squirrels and large insects.

Breeding: During spring months, usually laying 3 eggs.

Lifespan: About 8 years. They are the second bird most likely to be killed by a moving vehicle behind robins.

(Video) Barred Owl Adult Calling

OWL SPECIES

FAQs

What owl hoots 3 times? ›

The great horned owl's hoot is pretty much unmistakable, although ornithology web sites often describe it in different ways. A common hooting pattern is a longer hoooooot, followed by two or three shorter hoots.

Which owl says Who cooks for you? ›

Barred Owls have a distinctive hooting call of 8–9 notes, described as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” This call carries well through the woods and is fairly easy to imitate. During courtship, mated pairs perform a riotous duet of cackles, hoots, caws and gurgles.

Whats the most common owl in Florida? ›

They also eat other rodents, insects, lizards, amphibians, bats, and birds. The barn owl is the most widely occurring owl and one of the most widespread birds.

What is the largest owl in Florida? ›

Great Horned Owls are the largest of the Florida owls, and the most aggressive of all the raptors. They nest in the winter, often stealing nests from bald eagles!

What time of year are owls most active? ›

Late winter is one of the best seasons for bird watching, especially among birders who bird by ear. This is because the owls call is much more frequent than other times of the year. Males seek out new mates in the late winter, which is why there are more male owls actively seeking out mates.

What does it mean when an owl hoots at you? ›

Make no fear, it's nothing to be concerned about. The hoot is used by owls to communicate with one another and to attract a mate. Like the sound of a dog's bark or a cat's mew. They are also hooting to alert humans to their presence.

Do owls mate for life? ›

Do owls mate for life? Yes. As a general rule, almost all owl species are monogamous. Although the migratory species might not stick together all year-round, they return to the same nesting site every breeding season to reproduce and raise their brood.

What does it mean when you hear two owls late at night? ›

What does it mean when you hear 2 owls? Seeing two owls means that you're about to receive an important spiritual message. Those special birds are bringing a time of change and telling us that we're ready for some adjusting.

What sense do owls use the most? ›

One sense that owls use all of the time is their super-hearing abilities. Their dish-like faces act as a soundboard that focuses and amplifies the sound to their ears. Some have A-symmetrical hearing that allows them to hear sound in multiple dimensions.

Do owls eat snakes? ›

Yes, owls do, in fact, eat snakes and are quite fond of them. 4 main species of owls are known to consume snakes; these include the Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl and Burrowing Owls. Owls are opportunistic hunters and don't actively seek out snakes but will happily hunt and eat them when available.

What is the small owl in Florida? ›

Small Owls: Screech Owl and Burrowing Owl. In addition to the three large species, there are two “small” species of owls in Florida. The Eastern Screech Owl and Burrowing Owl more than makeup for their small stature with personality.

How long do owls stay in one place? ›

Do they stay in the same place each year, or do they move around? Owls stay in one place for as long as eight years unless they are a rare migratory species like the snowy owl or the flammulated owl. Most owls do not migrate, and they keep the same nesting spot in the same territory year after year with the same mate.

Where does an owl go during the day? ›

During the day, Great Horned Owls roost on branches next to the trunk. They prefer to sit high up in conifers, which can make them tough to see amid dense needles. Scan slowly up tree trunks and look for whitewash and pellets.

How fast can an owl run? ›

This depends on the size of the owl but some owl species, such as Burrowing owls, they have been known to run at speeds of 25mph! This is often with their wings out spread to their sides, it might be fairly wobbly but they still manage it!

Do owls recognize faces? ›

Facial Recognition

Owls can be classified by applying a basic form of facial recognition. Owls are a part of a group of birds known as 'Strigiformes', and can be grouped into two distinct groups, called 'families'.

What time of day is best to see owls? ›

The best time of day to see owls is at dawn or dusk when these birds are more easily spotted and more active. A moonlit night can also be a great time for owling, when the moon provides more light for effective owl spotting.

Where do owls go in rain? ›

Owls are limited with what they can do while it rains as they cannot hunt or fly. This means they spend most of their time perched in trees trying to stay as dry as they can and keeping as much body heat as possible.

Why do owls hoot 3 times? ›

A lot of owls hoot like this to send a message to other owls letting them know the territory they've just found is officially claimed. There's a lot of variation in the specific calls between species, but often when you hear owls hooting at night this is what they're doing.

Is it good to have owls around your house? ›

Although owls are beneficial birds that help control pests such as mice, voles, snakes, skunks and insects, they may present a danger to pets, poultry and small animals when they establish a territory too near a home or garden. Plus, they can be a bit noisy.

What does an owl in your yard mean? ›

Report Ad. An owl outside your house is a symbol of death. But, also, it's a symbol of change. You may be in a period of transition. If you have a huge, life-changing decision to make, an owl is there to show you the way.

Can owls bond with humans? ›

Owls are not affectionate or friendly to humans, and they can't develop such emotions. They are a lonely type of predatory bird, and their natural habitat is in the wild.

What time of year do owls have babies? ›

The female lays eggs in early March and then the owlets emerge in April and May. Michael says it's amazing to watch the owls hunt and bring food to the babies—everything from worms to snakes, turtles, chipmunks, and squirrels! Credit: Michael Kalik, video short from May 8, 2022.

Are owls smart? ›

Owls are amazing creatures in their own right, but they are far from being smart birds. Owls are as intelligent as their environments require them to be. Their brain is tiny, and it is mostly dedicated to the sensory processes, with very little room for learning abilities or intelligence in general.

What does it mean when an owl stares at you during the day? ›

The Owl As A Symbol of Enlightenment

Seeing one outside during the day can be interpreted as an indication that you will soon see something outside of your own box. The owl usually only sees things at night, but with this new context, its eyes are being opened in a new way.

Does the Bible mention owls? ›

Psalm 102:6: “I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.” The desert owl referred to here is a species of owl that is found in palm groves, rocky ravines, semi-deserts and deserts landscapes. There is nothing to celebrate about desolation and the deserts.

Do owls talk to each other? ›

There's more to owl sounds than just “hoo, hoo.” Each species of owl has its own unique call — sometimes more than one. If you've heard owl sounds at night around your neighborhood and are wondering about the caller's identity, you're in the right place.

How do you get an owl to trust you? ›

How to create an amazing bond with any owl // HOW TO ... - YouTube

What do owls do when scared? ›

If an owl becomes alarmed, it will become slim, its feathers pulled in tightly to the body, and ear-tufts, if any, will stand straight up.

Do owls live in the same place every year? ›

Owls generally keep the same nesting site in both summer and winter months and this can often last for around 8 consecutive years with the same mate. The benefits of having the same mate means that they can guard a territory together for a long period of time. Most owls do not migrate aside from the odd exception.

Do owls eat cats? ›

Owls have a wide variety of preferred prey, including rodents, fish, other small birds, or almost any small mammal, including occasionally, owls eat cats.

What animal would eat an owl? ›

Young and weak owls fall prey to wildcats, foxes, raccoons, and eagles. Animals such as wildcats, foxes, raccoons, weasels, snakes, squirrels, hawks, skunks, and eagles eat owls. The access these predators have to these winged creatures depends on the owl's habitat, size, and species.

Do owls eat squirrels? ›

Yes, owls eat all types of rodents, including squirrels. Mammals like squirrels are commonly included in the diet of the large and medium-sized owl species, such as the Barred Owls, Spotted Owls, and Barn Owls.

What trees do owls like to nest in? ›

Great Horned Owls typically nest in trees such as cottonwood, juniper, beech, pine, and others. They usually adopt a nest that was built by another species, but they also use cavities in live trees, dead snags, deserted buildings, cliff ledges, and human-made platforms.

How do you call an owl? ›

Calling Owls - YouTube

Where do Florida owls nest? ›

They mostly nest inside tree cavities, abandoned caves, and you may also find them in buildings or empty barns. They prefer staying close to open areas when they build their nests, so that's where you're most likely to see them. You may also run across these owls around marshes, fields, and agricultural sites.

Can you shoot owls in Florida? ›

Burrowing owls are a protected species under Rule 68A-27, F.A.C. and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect a burrowing owl, or its eggs.

What do owls in Florida eat? ›

Depending on the species, their diet is quite varied and includes, insects, lizards, a variety of small rodents, birds, and even crayfish. Nesting pairs of owls and their voracious owlets can consume thousands of small rodents in a year.

What are owls afraid of? ›

Research suggests that owls lack a true sense of fear. Intense bursts of human noise, such as clapping and shouting will unsettle an owl and they are also likely to be spooked by sudden flashes of bright light.

How many babies do owls have at a time? ›

Owls can lay between 1 and 14 eggs depending on how much food is available. In years when prey populations are high then owls will lay more eggs than when prey is scarce. Male owls do not incubate eggs only females.

How far away can you hear an owl? ›

But they do have acute hearing and can hear sounds ten miles away. >> Owls have good eyesight. They see only black and white, but their eyes are as large as a human's and 35 times more sensitive.

Is it good luck to see an owl? ›

Reality: Owls are no more bad luck than black cats, broken mirrors, or spilled salt. In many cultures, owls are seen as bad luck or omens of death and are feared, avoided or killed because of it.

Do owls sleep standing up? ›

An owl's sleeping place, be it on the ground or in a branch, is called a roost. Owls are known to sleep in a standing position and close their eyes. They make a strong grip with their claws on the branch of the tree to balance the body. Barred owls can be seen sitting on the ground near the trees they live in.

Can owls be pets? ›

In reality, though, keeping an owl as a pet is extremely challenging. Owning a pet owl is not legal in most countries. For example, the U.S. doesn't allow people to keep owls unless they are trained and licensed, or using their owl for breeding or educational purposes. Even then, the owl is not considered your pet.

What is the biggest owl? ›

The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl in North America. It is sometimes called the cat owl. This widespread bird of prey lives in mountains, grasslands, conifer forests, deserts, chapparals, and many other habitats in North and South America. Its scientific name is Bubo virginianus (Genus and species).

Do owls eat other birds? ›

Owls eat a large variety of bird species that range in size from small finches all the way up to large birds like geese and even other owls. Unfortunately, large owls will also feed on domestic fowl like chickens from time to time, although this is not their typical prey.

Why do owls hoot 3 times? ›

A lot of owls hoot like this to send a message to other owls letting them know the territory they've just found is officially claimed. There's a lot of variation in the specific calls between species, but often when you hear owls hooting at night this is what they're doing.

What does it mean when you hear an owl hoot at night 3 times? ›

An interesting interpretation of what a hooting owl means come from India and tells you to count how many hoots you hear. One hoot foretells a death, but two hoots predict success. Three hoots tell you that a woman is going to marry into the family soon while four is a warning of unrest.

Is it good luck to hear an owl? ›

Owls are extremely cautious animals. As night hunters, they are staying away from people during the day and they only can be seen and heard if they want to. So, if you're wondering what does it mean when you hear an owl during the day, the answer is that it represents good luck and fortune.

Is it an owl or a dove? ›

Owls are typically nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. Mourning doves are diurnal, strutting around during the day. This means a hooting call during the day is more likely to be a mourning dove than an owl. A mourning dove's call is a little mournful, or sad, which is where they get their name.

What does it mean when owls are around your house? ›

An owl is a sign of wisdom and understanding for the vast majority of people. It is a symbol of learning and mental change. It also represents a fresh start and a new beginning. You may be about to begin a fresh phase in your life if you see an owl.

Is it good to have owls around your house? ›

Although owls are beneficial birds that help control pests such as mice, voles, snakes, skunks and insects, they may present a danger to pets, poultry and small animals when they establish a territory too near a home or garden. Plus, they can be a bit noisy.

How long do owls stay in one place? ›

Do they stay in the same place each year, or do they move around? Owls stay in one place for as long as eight years unless they are a rare migratory species like the snowy owl or the flammulated owl. Most owls do not migrate, and they keep the same nesting spot in the same territory year after year with the same mate.

What does it mean when an owl stares at you during the day? ›

The Owl As A Symbol of Enlightenment

Seeing one outside during the day can be interpreted as an indication that you will soon see something outside of your own box. The owl usually only sees things at night, but with this new context, its eyes are being opened in a new way.

What does it mean when an owl is in your yard? ›

For most people, an owl is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. It represents knowledge and mental transformation. Also, It's a symbol of a new beginning and transformation. An owl is a reminder that you may start a new chapter in your life.

Does the Bible mention owls? ›

Psalm 102:6: “I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.” The desert owl referred to here is a species of owl that is found in palm groves, rocky ravines, semi-deserts and deserts landscapes. There is nothing to celebrate about desolation and the deserts.

Why do owls hoot 4 times? ›

Owls primarily hoot to claim their territory and fend off any would-be intruders (1). Hoots can also be used to signal the presence of a predator. Other times, a special type of hoot is used for communication between mated pairs (2).

Where do owls go during the day? ›

During the day, Great Horned Owls roost on branches next to the trunk. They prefer to sit high up in conifers, which can make them tough to see amid dense needles. Scan slowly up tree trunks and look for whitewash and pellets.

What does it mean to have 2 owls in your yard? ›

Seeing two owls means that you're about to receive an important spiritual message. Those special birds are bringing a time of change and telling us that we're ready for some adjusting.

What animal sounds like an owl but isn t? ›

If it's not an owl, then what is it? Most likely a Mourning Dove. Not only can their call sound a lot like an owl's hooting to the untrained ear, but these skittish blue-gray birds can also be found everywhere from window ledges and alleyways to backyards and bird feeders.

Why do owls hoot all night? ›

Owls hoot at night because that is when most owl species are most active. Primarily, they hoot to protect their territory, to ward off predators and to attract or reunite with their mate.

Why do owls call at night? ›

Owls often call out in the night over territorial disputes. While owls are capable nesters, they often claim the nests made by other birds. This is why they call so often in the night about it: they are staking a claim over a specific nest or location, and they don't want any other bird to bother them.

Videos

1. Owls of North America and their Calls
(Bird Kind)
2. The Distinctive Calls of Owls: A Sampler
(Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
3. Types of owls || types of owls in florida || types of owls in texas || types of owls in georgia
(The Zoological World)
4. Great horned owl call from big forest!
(The Animal Sounds)
5. BARRED OWL AMAZING VOCALS!
(Andrew Manske)
6. ONE Central Florida Short: Owl Super Mom
(WUCF TV)
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