What You Need
- bird field guide
- field journal/notebook
What You Do
STEP 1: Whooo’s There?
The best way to track down owls is with your ears. The best time to listen for them, of course, is at night. Check a bird field guide to find out which owls live in your area, where to look for them, and what sounds they make. Also check out online guides:
STEP 2: Night Noise
In the evening, listen for owls hooting, tooting, whistling, or trilling. Late winter and early spring are usually the best times to hear owls calling for mates. The hoots of a great horned owl sound like this: hoo-hoo-HOO hoooo hooo. A barred owl seems to ask, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”
STEP 3: Give a Hoot
If you get lucky and hear an owl, try to imitate the call and hoot back. Sometimes you can start a conversation!
STEP 4: Eye Spy
Return during the day to places where you heard owls calling. Look for whitewash, owl pellets, and owl feathers. If you find some, check carefully up in the trees. There might be an owl tucked next to the trunk or perched on a limb.
STEP 5: Stick Figures
Keep track of trees in the area that have stick nests in them. Go back to those trees in late spring to see if an owl mom is using any of them. Take binoculars so you don’t have to get so close that you disturb her.
STEP 6: Take Note
Keep owl-prowling notes in a field journal. Sketch a map of any owl hot spot you find and keep track of what you discover there over time. Use your field notes again next year to see if owls start a new family in the same area.
Don’t hear any owls? Don’t worry. Try again another time or in another place. Or just enjoy all the other night sounds you hear! 🦉