Lee’s Summit, Mo. – You might call this the big bird show for Dick and Jane Petri, ardent backyard wildlife watchers. Barred owls are raising at least two chicks in a nest that is mere yards from their deck. The owls don’t seem to mind onlookers, and the Petri’s find their gaze often trained on the nest high in a hollow dead limb on a large cottonwood tree.
One evening they watched the male and female owl chase marauding crows away from the nest.
“It’s really something to see,” Jane Petri said. “This is fun. We waste a lot of time out here watching.”
The Petris, retirees, keep bird feeders filled near their deck. Carolina wrens are nesting in some shoes tacked on the back wall. But about a month ago, they noticed bigger parents in view -- the barred owls.
A natural common area with a small creek is near the back of their property line. An owl pair chose a cavity in a broken off cottonwood limb as a nest spot.
One parent is often sitting on a nest, while another watches the neighborhood from another tree. Sometimes both parents leave the nest and hoot at one another. Their call, described as ““who cooks for you, who cooks for you all,” loudly echoes between the neighborhood houses.
Recently an adult owl left the nest, but kept watch from a perch in a nearby tree. Soon one owlet poked its head up and gazed out on the world, then came another.
“That’s the first time we’ve seen two of them,” Jane Petri said. “We’re not sure how many young are in the nest.”
The Petri vegetable garden is perhaps a bit safer from rabbits and mice as the parents hunt food for the owlets. The chicks still have downy heads and down on their wing feathers. But the young owls will soon mature enough to leave the nest.
For now, Petri said, “they’re sure fun to watch.”
For more information on barred owls, go to mdc.mo.gov/node/3181.