Observing Maine’s most-observed owl

Posted March 29, 2010, at 12:44 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 10, 2010, at 12:45 p.m.
A barred owl in a tree along Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor sometime in 2002.
BDN Staff Photo
A barred owl in a tree along Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor sometime in 2002.

Hope Brogunier and I were driving near the Fields Pond Audubon Center and we saw an owl flying toward the road! I slowed down and stopped, so as not to hit the owl. The owl flew to the telephone cable directly across from my car – a great opportunity to watch an owl close by.

We saw its dark brown eyes, the concentric lines around its eyes and brown barring across its chest, streaked lengthwise on the belly. It was a barred owl, the most-observed owl in Maine. We watched its toes and claws clutch the phone cable. We watched the owl for three minutes and savored the sight. Then a car came along in the opposite direction. I had my flashing lights on but the driver didn’t slow down, so the owl flew away, and we drove away.

Barred owl claws are sharp. I know that because there is a specimen leg of a barred owl at the Fields Pond Audubon Center. We show it to visitors when teaching about owls. I like to feel it on the end of my finger, and say, “Ouch!” Children want to do that, too. Those claws are sharp enough to go through a mouse.

Owls have asymmetrical ears; one ear is high on the left side, and the other ear is low on the right side. Together the eyes and ears can triangulate on the owl’s prey in the dark.

Owls’ food consists mostly of mice and voles. Occasionally, they eat chipmunks, red, gray and flying squirrels, small birds, snakes and frogs. They are known to wade into shallow water and catch fish.

Once I found an owl’s nest in the broken trunk of a tree. In the nest I saw a young barred owl, with fuzzy down on its head. It had swallowed most of a fish, but I could still see the fish’s tail sticking out of the owl’s open mouth.

There will be a walk to experience some of the sights and sounds of spring at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, at the Fields Pond Audubon Center. These may include spring peepers, woodcock and a barred owl. Children are welcome. A $5 admission will benefit the center. Advance registration by phone is required.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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