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14 hours ago, The Bird Nuts said:

A few years ago we had a very "friendly" Barred Owl who stayed in our neighborhood for a few months.  It often flew into trees nearby to get closer to us.  One night I spotted it in the beam of my flashlight.  I turned off the light and stood there and it flew right by my head and landed on a branch a few feet from me.  It briefly looked at me, but then continued to look at the ground for voles and stayed on the branch when I slowly walked away.  It was the most amazing bird experience I've ever had.  I wondered why an owl would want to be near humans.

We have had similar experiences with Barred Owls in the 20 years we have lived in our current home in a suburban neighborhood.  They (I'm assuming over 20 years it has been more than one individual) seem genuinely curious about what we are and our activities.

Edited by floraphile
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1 hour ago, millipede said:

I'm a bit curious about this idea that photographers throw dead mice for action shots...  Educate me. Somehow, I can't picture an owl going after something that isn't alive, warm, and squeaking.

Apparently, hungry owls will go for dead mice.  In colder climates when the snow freezes solid, the owls can't catch their prey and often starve to death.

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6 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:


As to the attraction, I don't get it but at this point I'll accept y'all's word for it.  Just because I don't get it doesn't mean it doesn't occur.

You're welcome!

Oh boy, I can share some stories with you. Sadly, it's not just with owls. I once observed a group of birder/photographers walk directly into a small patch of reeds that were hosting a pair of wintering Nelson's Sparrows (rare here in the Bay Area), just to flush them and get a shot. Sadly, I have other stories about people disturbing owls. Just a few years back a local photographer posted pictures to Facebook of a Great-horned Owl consuming a freshly dead Long-eared Owl. I'm not saying that the particular photographer caused the LEOW to flush and get predated by the GHOW, but it is an example of the fact that it really does happen.

Owls are near mythical creatures to many, and the obsession is real. I can't count the amount of times I have seen birder, photographer, and generally interested people observing an owl at its day root. Most of the time it goes well and is done ethically, but when it doesn't, it's often the bird that pays the price. Discretion is warranted, especially with sensitive species. Great-horned Owls for example, are at the top of the food chain and are often not very disturbed by human activity. Long-eared Owls are notorious for being very sensitive and easily disturbed. There are many other reasons why a bird may be considered "sensitive" but for the purposes of this thread, we'll stick to owls. 

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49 minutes ago, The Bird Nuts said:

Apparently, hungry owls will go for dead mice.  In colder climates when the snow freezes solid, the owls can't catch their prey and often starve to death.

Yes, this is very true. Photographers often used dead mice to bait owls. In fact, the really good photos you often see often owls head on in flight, are usually the result of baiting. Photos like this one (Note: while I don't know if this particular owl is baited, photos like this one are often the result of such baiting). My sense tell me this was.


Edited by DLecy
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Aren’t sometimes those photos staged with captive owls too?

I know at my zoo, the captive owls are fed dead mice and chicks, don’t know if it took some ‘weaning’ to get them to go after it or what. 

Even though most owls are the top of the food chain, they can still get killed by a gang of birds such as ravens or crows. I can see how disturbing an owl at it’s otherwise hidden roost can attract the attention of a magpie who will get all his friends to come harass him all day. I was woken up at 5am one day by a bunch of crows who found a GHOW in my yard and they were there constantly until dusk. Since they’re (mostly) night hunters, no other birds are necessarily supposed to find them during the day. They’re also not the fastest fliers so, unlike other avian predators, I don’t think they can simply get away from a gang of mobbing birds as easily. 
With snowies, I can see how potentially flushing one can be dangerous as they are often in wide open habitats and can’t necessarily take refuge to escape a mob of angry birds. When I went and saw a snowy owl a few days ago, another guy who was there asked if I wanted to go walk up to the owl with him until it flew away so we could get in flight shots. Like? No?? I said I didn’t want to disturb him and then he back tracked a bit... Though that was his 6th snowy of the day and he had a $10,000 camera so pretty sure he was doing that before. Also never saw any eBird reports so...
Just a weird way of thinking I guess. 

The barred owls at my cabin also seem to not care about human presence. They always hang out on the side of a road that is fairly bike/people heavy. They also hang out in a campground of all places. Literally the noisesiet and most likely to be disturbed place in the whole town. Plenty of undisturbed wild areas or quiet streets they could hang around but I’ve only seen them over there....  Many people posted photos of them online ‘visiting’ their campsite, often landing on the ground right beside them. 

Also, owls are also a lot scarcer in terms of population compared to birds lower in the food chain. Killing 100 house sparrows in my city isn’t going to have the same affect on the overall city population compared to if I killed 100 owls. So I don’t think flushing a snipe or something is on the same level as flushing an owl. But both should be  avoided obviously, but sometimes it’s hard to see them! 

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  • 2 months later...

We have a pair or two of screech owls that raises little ones every year hear. I'm betting its the same pair. The little dudes love red birds. We don't bother them and they just go about life. We have a larger horned owl hanging around hoot'n all the time now. I'm working a nesting box for him or maybe for some wood ducks. The crows pester the crap out of him though... Stephenville Tx


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  • 2 weeks later...

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