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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Anonymous Katherine Riedel said...

It's weird of me to comment three years after this was posted, but I just came across it and had to share.

I hit what looked like a Barred Owl driving home late at night on Highway 1088 in Louisiana. This was 7-8 years ago, and I've never been sure what kind of owl I hit.

I was going about 55 mph, which is the speed limit, but I didn't have my brights on so I had no time to even brake. (I actually thought it was a bucket, I had recently moved one off the highway in the same area, haha.) I turned around to see what I had hit, and it was a giantic owl. I was so upset! I know it died instantly, because his head is what whacked the center of the front bumper on my car. I couldn't figure out why it was standing in the middle of the road like a giant bowling pin. There was no trash, food, animals that I could see anywhere near it.

Another thing in this picture that caught my eye (besides the fact that it's dead) is that it has the most accurate pattern and coloring to the owl I hit. Every other picture I've seen shows markings that are too dark or patterned differently. I guess I should've narrowed my results to the Southeastern region.

Your post makes me feel a little better, everyone I tell this to thinks I'm crazy. Thank you!

2:00 AM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...


I've had many people tell me of similar experiences. My brother had one slam into his windshield. Luckily it didn't shatter it. Glad you enjoyed the post.


5:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recently I was shown a roadkill owl that looked like this one and the person who picked it up from the road asked if he could have it mounted to hang on his wall. Can you tell me if a barred owl (protected species) may be mounted?


8:02 AM  
Anonymous Jace Stansbury said...

Sorry Charlie, but it would against the law to mount this bird. It would actually even be breaking the law to even keep a feather off of it. This is because it is a protected species. Even if he brought it to a taxidermist they would refuse to mount it because of it being protected.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's a protected specie, why are the feds shotgunning it in the Northwest?

2:04 AM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...

Seems the larger more aggressive barred owl has moved into a territory of the endangered northern spotted owl (Marin's Muir Woods) where its population is the densest. The feds are considering "onsite lethal removal" or as you stated- shooting to try and trim back on the barred population hoping the spotted owl's population will rebound, but they fear this may do no good and be temporary. I'm sure they'll catch all kinds of hell from conservationists if they decide to do this.

7:56 PM  

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