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Night Sounds: Owls

Jan 22, 2018

Owls liven up winter evenings in Missouri. And it's usually the best time of year to hear and see them. The barred owl, great horned owl, and eastern screech-owl are commonly found in our area. You can tell them apart by learning their calls.

The barred owl prefers deep woods around rivers and swamps. They usually save their choruses for the darker hours. Their hooting pattern sounds like, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" Should you hear a barred owl, try calling back. They usually respond to imitated calls and sometimes even approach the caller.

The legendary hoot owl is the great horned owl. These owls like forests, suburbs, city parks and open countryside. Their call is a series of hoots similar in quality to the barred owl. They will also respond if you imitate their call.

The eastern screech-owl likes farms, orchards, woods and towns. Despite their big and fearful name, screech owls are small birds about the size of a robin. Their call doesn't even come close to a screech. It is more like a soft, mournful whinny. They are active at dusk. They also have two color morphs in red and grey with intermediate browns.

Check out the media gallery below for owl calls and pictures.

Most Wanted: Barn Owl

  • Barn owls are found in open woodlands, pastures and croplands. Any landscape with grain that harbors good populations of rodents.
  • Their vocals are harsh and screeching.
  • Barn owls diet is mainly rodents. They also eat birds, insets, bats, and reptiles.
  • They are a rare permanent resident and a Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri where their populations are vulnerable.
  • Barn owls do not emerge from their roosts until several hours after dark.
  • Due to their skill at hunting rodents, they perform a great service to farmers and others in the grain business. These pest removal services make barn owls a most wanted species worldwide.

Discover more about barn owls in our MDC Field Guide.

Great horned owl_04.jpg

great horned owl
Great Horned Owl

The Distinctive Calls of Owls: A Sampler

Hear owls calls in this video sampler from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Hear owls calls in this video sampler from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Snowy Owls - AskMDC

These beautiful birds are native to the Arctic and are not commonly seen in Missouri.
These beautiful birds are native to the Arctic and are not commonly seen in Missouri.

Screech owl_red_19.jpg

Eastern Screech-Owl


Barred Owl
Barred Owl

Barn owl001.jpg

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Building a Screech Owl Nesting Box

Building a Screech-Owl Nesting Box
Building a Screech-Owl Nesting Box

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