Barred Owls live in large, mature forests made up of both deciduous trees and evergreens, often near water. They nest in tree cavities and, in many cases, will nest in man-made nesting boxes mounted high in the trees. This year, one of the nesting boxes at Jennings Environmental Education Center was active and I got to see the fledglings within days of leaving the box.
I live about 20 miles from Jennings Environmental Education Center, which is in Slippery Rock, PA. On May 16th, I got a text from my friend and excellent wildlife photographer, Jake Dingel. He forwarded me a Facebook article stating the Jennings Barred Owl chicks have fledged. About 6:00 that evening, my wife Elena and I packed up my gear and headed to Jennings. I've seen photos of past years' Barred Owl fledglings and I wanted to get some of my own.
When we arrived, Jake had already spotted one adult and three chicks. This chick was perched 20 to 30 feet up in the tree.
In Pennsylvania, a clutch of 2-4 eggs are laid in late March to early April; hatching takes place about 4 weeks later. The young owls fledge 4-5 weeks after hatching.
The owls in some of these photos appear to be very close but I assure you it's all the result of a lens with high magnification. All of these photos were shot using a 20.2 MP Canon 1DX MKII camera body, Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens, and sometimes, a Canon EF 1.4 III extender. Using the cropping capabilities of the RAW image can bring the subject even closer. This technology allows the wildlife photographer to bring close up shots to you without disrupting or endangering the wildlife.
During mating season and when raising their chicks, you may see Barred Owls hunting during the day but this species still generally hunts near dawn or dusk. The warmth of the setting sun was putting this adult to sleep.
The chicks have still not molted their soft down. The young begin to molt at six weeks, and this molt can last 5–6 months.
Profile of a backlit, Barred Owl chick.
Their hoot, translated to English, sounds like "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all". When agitated, they make a buzzy, rasping hiss and forcefully clicks its beak together.
The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons.
Adults nearly have a 50 inch wingspan. Owls with dark eyes, such as the Barred Owl, Northern Spotted Owl, and Barn Owl, tend to hunt at night. However, they are sometimes seen out in daylight, especially on cloudy days.
This adult, perched on one foot, just finished a whole body shake to fluff up its feathers.
Here is a compilation video of the Barred Owls and their chicks.
Well, I hope you enjoyed seeing the Barred Owl family. It isn't every day that a person gets to witness the whole family together like this. I'm so glad I was able to experience it and share my story and photos with you.
Thanks for looking,