The Faces and Eyes of Owls

With the snow and cold weather, and the resulting icy roads, it has been difficult to get out for birding. Instead, I have been looking over older photos. My favourites, tend to be pictures of owls. Unfortunately, far too many owls are harassed by overly “keen” photographers, who do not respect the needs of owls to be left alone. I have been fortunate in the last number of years to have encountered many owls, often without other photographers in the area. With a high resolution camera (allowing for substantial cropping), and a long telephoto lens, it is not necessary to get too close to the owls I am photographing. In the past year I have been rewarded on numerous occasions where owls have been completely relaxed in my presence. These are some of my favourite photos of owls, taken over the last ten years in Ontario, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, Alberta and British Columbia.

I have encountered short-eared owls in Kentucky and Southern Indiana (on reclaimed coal mining lands) and from Newfoundland to British Columbia. Although they are generally nocturnal, they will sometimes feed in numbers in the daytime, particularly in cold snowy weather. One time, in Southern Indiana, there were close to twenty owls, flying all around me. This is a lucky shot of one that flew directly over me, while hunting for small rodents.
Snowy owls, particularly the very white male, are always a special find. Southwestern Ontario in the winter months has been a particularly good area for finding snowies. This one was observing me from the top of a hydro pole.
This burrowing owl was a resident of Marco Island in Florida. I have also encountered burrowing owls in Paraguay, Brazil and Saskatchewan.
One of the most enjoyable “owl experiences” I had was one early morning in the winter in Alberta. While driving along a country road, we stopped our car when a great gray owl flew onto a tree by the side of the road. When we came to a full stop, we realized that there was a pair of owls, mating. A few minutes later, mister owl (shown above) flew over the road and landed in a tree beside the car and proceeded to stare at us.
The tiny northern pygmy owl is a fierce hunter and will take on rodents and birds both smaller and substantially larger than itself. It does not seem to be at all intimidated by people and I watched this particular owl for about an hour, as it hunted (successfully), fed on its catch and flew back and forth around me. They are found throughout the mountains of Western North America.
This past summer, I was able to watch a pair of barred owls raise three owlets in a secluded area about 20 miles from where I live, over a period of several months. The parents were very comfortable with me in the area, and often flew within twenty thirty feet of me. This recently fledged owlet however, wasn’t as confident, but still wanted to get a better look at me.
The long-eared owl is an owl that does not like to be bothered. It is very secretive and nocturnal in its habits. This individual was photographed on private property in Ontario.
The northern hawk owl is an owl of the north, venturing into southern Canada, occasionally in the winter months. I was lucky enough to see this individual some ten years ago while heading to a bird sanctuary in the Lower Mainland of BC.
This eastern screech owl was photographed in Ohio, in the Spring. Screech owls are very nocturnal, and most often seen in the daytime in the winter, when they come out of their hollows to sun themselves. I have seen eastern screech owls in Ontario and Ohio.
The great-horned owl is at the top of the food chain when it comes to owls, and will prey on rodents, small mammals, other birds and smaller owls. I have encountered them in South America, Alabama, Indiana, California, and British Columbia. In our neighbourhood here in BC, we hear them from time to time at night and have seen their silhouettes at night.
The barn owl is found throughout the world but is rare in Canada, and generally only found in Southern BC. It is a nocturnal hunter but occasionally can be found hunting in the early evening or early morning.

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