Discover Nature: Courting Owls

Nov 29, 2016

On a crisp Missouri night, take a walk in the woods and listen. You’ll likely hear one of our state’s most fascinating birds.  This week on Discover Nature, listen for owls courting in the woods. 

A great horned owl and her chicks
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

Long-entwined in human history and folklore, science has stripped away superstitions that once connected these birds to witchcraft and death.  Instead, we now recognize the unique role they play in controlling populations of mice, rats, and snakes.

Armed with sharp talons and powerful beaks, these nocturnal predators have three-dimensional night-vision and a keen sense of hearing.  A barn owl can locate its prey with pinpoint accuracy, in total darkness, with using sound alone. 

Serrated-edge feathers on the front of their wings make their flight stealthily silent.  However, in winter, you can hear Missouri’s owls before you see them, as they call for mates from their treetop perches. 

Listen for the ‘who-cooks-for-you’ hooting of a barred owl, the rare and raspy call of a snowy owl, the deep, muffled stuttering of a great horned owl, or the chilling scream of an endangered barn owl.

Learn more about Missouri’s owls,  and listen to their courting calls at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.