The young barred owls that I observed this past summer at the Mason Farm Biological Reserve could be found rather predictably in two places at the reserve, both of which were near water. They were quite beautiful to see.
Barred owls (Strix varia) are the only owls in the Eastern USA who have brown rather than yellow eyes. When adult, barred owls have short feathers on their heads but no ear tufts. Their eyelids are also feathered. The juveniles still have fuzzy down feathers on their heads and pink, barely feathered, eyelids as you can see here.
Adult barred owl Young barred owlet
Their feathers extend down their legs and feet right up to their talons. The owls’ claws are less curved than other raptors’ talons which makes it possible for them to squeeze their prey to death.
As they grow, the young ones will groom often, pulling out downy feathers.
They frequently stretch out their wings and tails when grooming.
Baths were also a welcome form of personal care.
This was especially so during our very hot summer days. The fact that I was standing about 5 feet away did not deter the owlets from enjoying vigorous dunkings in the water ditch.
I did not see them bathe at the same time; they appeared to take turns. Perhaps each one was keeping watch for the other one when they were vulnerable.
The siblings did indeed seem to be very aware of each other’s activities and when I observed them, they didn’t stray far from one another. The next blog will show a little of their interactions.