Saturday, December 01, 2007

Road-Killed Barred Owl

While traveling Highway 69 that takes me to my getaway in the woods I keep my eyes along its edges for roadkill, as I've spoke of before in prior entries (1) (2) (3) .
During my travels to and from I've found a number of roadkilled owls, mostly barred owls (Strix varia). Also known by other names such as Swamp Owl, Wood Owl, and Striped Owl, it is a large bird with a wingspan of 3-4 foot. Its name is derived from the white horizontal barring on the chest. This along with the dark vertical striping on its belly affords it excellent camoflauge when perched in the thick areas of trees. The barred owl, an opportunistic hunter, feeds on mammals (rodents, squirrels, opposums, voles, etc.), snakes, frogs, and at times other birds. It's only natural enemy is the great-horned owl (and also man when he is ignorant enough to kill one of these). Their call is an eerie one, especially when heard deep in the night. At times they happen to hunt in the wrong place, such as the edges of roadways. What could possibly be happening is that small mammals such as mice, squirrels, or voles are attracted to the sides of the highway to possibly feed on any food trash that has been littered by humans which in turn attracts the owls to them. Owls will drop from the branch they are perched on and swoop low to the ground, pouncing on its prey. At times this low swooping arc brings them across a busy thoroughfare, smack in front of a moving vehicle, and unfortunately this is the end result.

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