Monday, January 24, 2011

What killed the Barred Owl?

Posted by Kirk
On a hike a week ago we happened upon this grisly sight. The disembodied foot of an owl. We have Barred Owls out at the Lee & Rose Warner Nature center. We hear them regularly, we see them once in a while. We apparently won't be seeing or hearing this one again.

It is hard to say what happened. There were no other clues on the trail, just the foot. There wasn't any blood. There weren't any feathers. I strongly suspect that the owl was killed or died elsewhere and the foot was dropped in the location we found it. There are a couple of options.

1. The owl could have died from sickness or old age.
There's a chance the bird simply died all by itself and then scavengers picked it apart and dropped the foot along the trail.

2. It could have been killed by another Barred Owl.
Owls are setting up territory this time of year. It is possible the bird was a young male that challenged our existing male's territory and lost. It could also be the old male who lost to the newcomer. Still, I'm guessing even if this is the case, the foot was probably left here by scavengers cleaning up after the fight.

3. It could have been killed by a Great-horned Owl.
I've never seen a Great-horned Owl on the property but others have. Great-horned owls are creatures of the forest edge. They hang out at the edge of the lake or at the farm land we own across the street. They tend to avoid the deep forest. This trail wasn't all that far from the lake so it is possible a Great-horned decided the barred owl was too close to his or her territory.

We'll never know for sure but it is incredible what you can find when you keep your eyes open in the woods.