In Country Woods, South Surrey BC,  we mainly see and/or hear the barred owl. The barred owl is also called a “hoot owl” and can be recognized by its distinctive call: “Who, who, who cooks for you?” This owl is active both during the day and the night. Half of all owl species in BC hunt during the day. Owls can hear the squeak of a mouse from 150 feet away!

They frequently drink and bathe in open water even in winter.

They use the same nest annually. Their lifespan is up to 23 years and they can have 2 to 4 young at a time.

The barred owl is closely related to the spotted owl. Where populations overlap, these two species will interbreed. Their progeny are called “sparred owls”.

The spotted owl is found only in South Western BC.

Barred owls compete for territory and prey and are more adaptable than the spotted owl. The number one reason for the spotted owl’s low numbers is the loss of old growth habitat.  Releasing captive bred owls back into an unsustainable habitat, i.e. reforested areas, where all trees are of the same species and same growth rate has not worked and the spotted owl has been red listed. The captive breeding programs in Seattle and Langley, BC have been up to this date not very successful, out of each 12 eggs only 2 or 3 usually hatch.

Some more interesting facts about owls:

  • There are 150 species of owls in the world.
  • Owls are found on all Continents except Antarctica.
  • They have binocular vision.
  • Owls cannot move their eyes, they turn their head instead.
  • They have 3 (!) eyelids, one for blinking, one for sleeping and one for keeping dirt out.
  • Their feet are zygodactyl, which means that two toes face forward and two backwards (for easy gripping and holding onto branches and catching prey).
  • Not all owls hoot!
  • Wingspan can be up to 1.5 meters. Their weight ranges from 1.5 kg for smaller owls to 8 kg for the larger owls.
  • A group of owls is called, “a parliament”.

Some owls like the snowy owl, have insulated feet covered with feathers to protect it from cold. This owl can be seen on Boundary Bay Dyke in winter. The male is all white, the female has white feathers mottled with brown. They rely on lemmings and other small rodents for their food source on Boundary Bay. The female can lay up to 11 eggs. Its Latin name is “Bubo Scandiaca”, the Harry Potter owl!

In general, threats like habitat loss, pesticides, wire fences and vehicle collisions, are reducing their numbers.

If you have never spotted an owl, listen to other birds around you, birds like robins and crows will go crazy and argue with loud noises to try and chase the owl away from their territory, when you get closer to the noise and look up at a branch close to the trunk of a tree! Gotcha!!