Bob and I were hiking along a small creek, called Duffin’s Creek, in Markham, Ontario. As the sun was sinking lower and time was getting on, we were making our way back towards the trailhead when Bob’s eye suddenly registered an usual silhouette in a tree as he glanced to the right. Taking time to give us a look was a Barred Owl (Strix varia).
What a pleasant surprise!!
Slightly smaller than a Great Horned Owl, these owls have a well-developed facial disk, with dark eyes.
Barred Owls are very common in the United States and central and northern Ontario, however they are extremely rare in parts of southwestern Ontario. According to Bird Studies Canada, Barred Owls are elusive birds making them difficult to actually sight and observe.
Barred Owls like to eat small mammals like squirrels, mice and rabbits, and even, on occasion, they will eat other birds like grouse. In the area where we first spotted the Barred Owl, corncobs from the nearby cornfield littered the forest floor, so I’m sure an abundance of rodents have provided a good hunting ground for the owl.
Barred Owls are gray-brown in color, with a round head and NO ear tufts. Adults tend to be around 43-50 cms in size.
To the west, the sun was setting quickly.
This sighting was the first time we had ever seen a Barred Owl in its natural habitat, and only the second time that I had observed any wild owl.
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