Owls are perhaps the hardest of all birds to spot even though they are some of the largest birds in Ebenezer. You know they are present however by their hoots echoing through the treetops. Barred Owls’ hoots tend to sound as if they are saying, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for me!” They are the owls you will hear most frequently. The larger Great Horned Owl may be heard in Ebenezer on occasion and its call is a low monotone who, who, who. Our largest owl stands up to two feet high with a wingspan up to five feet. Its most distinguishing characteristic is its head feathers that look like ear tufts or horns, and therefore give it its name.

The smallest owl at eight inches tall, about the size of a Cardinal, and a wingspan of around 20 inches, is the Screech Owl. These owls can be in either of two phases, or feather-colors of red or gray. Their call is a melodious trill and can be heard only if you are near them.

All owls have silent flight afforded by wispy or frilled edges on individual feathers for effective hunting. Their slightly offset ears aid them in pinpointing sounds of a shuffling mouse in the leaves or a frog calling from a hidden location. Every now and again as you are paddling along, look up in branches overhead. You may be delightfully surprised to see a Barred Owl perched above. Their large eyes for night vision are striking and the feathers surrounding their eyes help capture light making their eyes appear even larger. While their heads cannot turn all the way around as most children think, they can turn their heads over 270from side to side.

Owls typically hunt at night and roost during the day. When we spot them while boating in Ebenezer they are usually resting and therefore very easy to spot if you happen to look in the right place at the right time. Remember, you won’t hear them fly! Their tan, brown, gray and reddish feathers effectively camouflage them in the surrounding foliage.

Cathy J. Sakas

The Coastal Naturalist