Looking and listening for owls in Northeast Ohio
Owls are some of the most fascinating creatures in Ohio. Their mysterious nature, charismatic expressions and recognizable calls have sparked interest for centuries. Many people will claim to have never seen an owl in the wild, but chances are they have been near one without knowing it.
Eight owl species reside in Northeast Ohio throughout the year. Three of the most common include the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl and the Eastern Screech-Owl.
Great Horned Owls can be found across the continental U.S. and are among the earliest to nest in Northeast Ohio. Despite winter’s harsh conditions, females are already incubating and can keep their eggs at a temperature exceeding 98 degrees. After a successful nesting season, owlets will hatch completely featherless and heavily reliant on their parents around late February, and will remain near their parents until the end of summer. Great Horned Owls live in a broad range of habitats, most typically in woods interspersed with open land. They may be difficult to see at night, but a deep series of hoots will indicate one is near.
Barred Owls are common to Northeast Ohio, but difficult to find as they are well camouflaged in large, mature oak and evergreen forests. Barred Owls claim their territory and tend to revisit the same location for months at a time. If they cannot be spotted, listen for their famous hooting call that resembles the phrase: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”
One of the smallest and the most common owl in Ohio, the Eastern Screech-Owl, remains in the state year round. These owls cope with winter exceptionally well, despite their size of 12 ounces. Their hearing is so well developed that they can hear their prey move as it tunnels under the snow, making them successful hunters. Listen for their loud trilling call from the trees in most types of woods, city parks and even your own backyard.
Join Lake Erie Nature & Science Center for its annual Owl Prowl on Friday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. Enjoy up-close encounters with the Center’s resident owls, experience nocturnal sights and sounds in the planetarium, participate in an owl scavenger hunt, and head outdoors on a hike in hopes of spotting or hearing wild owls in the surrounding forest. Tickets are available at www.lensc.org or 440-871-2900.
Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.