For owls in the backyard. Tis’ the season to hear them definitely, as they hoot to announce their territorial boundaries or their availability to the opposite sex. Tis’ the season to see them a little better without leaves on the tree, as well. These photos are courtesy of son-in-law Chris, who spotted this Barred Owl scoping out his backyard for mice this evening.
Because he lives on the edge of a designated wetland, Chris has been at war with the meadow voles for the past couple of years. They tunnel under the snow across his yard, leaving mounds of humped earth and grass that criss-cross the yard. It takes most of the summer for the lawn to recover. So Chris was delighted to see the Barred Owl succeed in reducing the vole population by at least one.
It goes down nicely in one gulp. Unlike hawks who have very low stomach pH which digests bone, owls cough up bones and fur of whatever mammal they have ingested in a pellet about 10-12 hours later. (Hawks also make pellets, but they generally lack bones.) Meat and tissues are separated from fur, skin, and bones in the lower (muscular) stomach, and the indigestible contents are compacted and stored in the upper (glandular) chamber of the stomach. Since a pellet in the upper stomach effectively blocks the digestive tract, the owl can’t eat again until it has cast the pellet from the last meal.
And now this Barred Owl is ready for another mouse, please. Chris, will you come out and stomp around on the snow and collapse some of those tunnels, so the mice will have to come above ground?
I wrote about Barred Owls earlier this fall (Hoo-hoo’s there?), and posted a video of a Barred Owl calling, if you want to compare with what you hear in your own backyard.