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Hoo Cooks for You… Hoo Cooks for You ALL…

owl, If it were said to be a “voice” of Strawberry Hill, it would have to be that of the Barred Owl which is also known as the Hoot Owl, Eight Hooter, Rain Owl, Wood Owl, and Striped Owl. The bottomland forests around Swamp and Middle Creeks are ideal habitats for this bird. On many nights, the various calls of the Barred Owl resound with the typical, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” However this most vocal of all Pennsylvania owls can bark like dogs, chatter like monkeys, whinny like horses, and scream like banshees. When they are young and newly fledged from the nest, they make a rasping sound that is nothing like the typical hoot of an owl. The only times the owls are relatively quiet are when they are sitting on their nests in early to mid-spring.

Although primarily nocturnal animals, don’t be surprised if you hear a chorus of Barred Owls calling in mid-afternoon. An owl will often awaken from its daytime slumber in a mature forest of deciduous trees and evergreens that are probably close to water. He will give a brief territorial call which is answered by other owls throughout the forest.

   The Barred Owl is a stocky, large bird with a rounded head, but no ear tufts. This beautiful creature has brown-and-white striped plumage. He takes flight noiselessly through the dense woodland. Banding a few Barred Owls has revealed that they don’t migrate; instead only move about 6 miles away.

It is easiest to spot a Barred Owl during the daytime by listening for the mobbing calls of blue jays or crows. These birds will often sound the alarm. Since they are mortal enemies, a whole contingent of smaller birds will descend upon an owl, harassing it until they drive it out of the area. Even though the owl could turn around and easily kill one of the pesky birds with one swipe of its mighty talons, it probably won’t happen. Similar to a schoolyard bully, the owl, doesn’t want to waste energy on a bunch of puny kids, the jays and crows, taunting it. In its drowsy state, the owl just wants to find another place to enjoy undisturbed sleep.

At night it is a different story. With incredibly keen senses of sight and hearing, the owl is one of the most formidable hunters in the woods. He will prey on all kinds of rodents, rabbits, birds (including smaller owls) and even skunks. Owls have comparatively weak bills and often prey is swallowed whole. Unlike other birds, owls have no crop and food passes straight into their foregut. The acid in the owl’s gut is weak so bones, fur, and feathers remain virtually intact. Regurgitating a “pellet” is a voluntary act. Pellets contain the indigestible bones and fur.

(Video by: Canada Wild http://www.youtube.com/user/CanadaWild?feature=watch)

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