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Photos: night owls

Barn Owl. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.

  • This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog.
  • Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species.
  • This month, David A. Oehler writes about owls.

Are there any sounds that terrify you?

Spectacled Owl. Julie Larsen Maher / WCS

From deep within the dark forests, the hoots and cries of owls during the night have triggered foreboding in people throughout history. These primal fears turned into superstitions, and owls became associated with the likes of witches, sorcerers, and ghosts. Even today, these fantastic creatures and their caterwauling resonate in modern culture throughout the soundtracks of horror movies, and their familiar silhouettes are infused in our seasonal Halloween decorations.

Fear not! The magical calls of owls are welcome melodies that we should be enjoyed and celebrated. Owls are an intricate part of our environment. They dine on a wide variety of rodents, other small mammals, and insects that could soon be out of control if their predators were not present. Over the normal lifespan of a barn owl, this efficient hunter can eat over 11,000 mice. Screech owls consume large numbers of insects as well as small rodents. Farmers know the value of these birds of prey and encourage owls to take up residence on their farms reducing the need to use other harmful forms of pest control.

Snowy Owl. Julie Larsen Maher / WCS

Many owl species are in decline due to habitat loss. Embrace the sights and sounds of owls by making them a home in your neighborhood. Install owl nest boxes in your trees on your property. Set up the boxes before the spring season, and enjoy the haunting sounds of owls throughout the year.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some helpful tips on owl nest boxes at NestWatch.



David A. Oehler is Curator of Ornithology at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. Julie Larsen Maher is WCS Staff Photographer.


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