Kevin Arnold, Southern District Interpretive Services Supervisor
As the deep “hoot” of the male Great Horned Owl reverberated through the woods, the crowd caught their first glimpse of the magnificent bird sitting high atop the large Bur Oak. His form, silhouetted against the evening sky, was surprisingly easy to see in the bright cast of moonlight from the full moon. Just then, the higher-pitched call of the female broke the silence; and everyone’s attention was drawn to her, perched just as regally, 40 yards away in the crown of a Red Maple. Since Eastern Screech Owls were our typical target species at Oakwoods Metropark, this was not a common sight during an Evening Owl Prowl program. However, it is one of our most memorable.
There is much mystery and intrigue surrounding owls. In Southeast Michigan, and consequently, in Your Metroparks, there are three species of owls that are year-round residents. Depending on your location, the majestic Great Horned Owl, the secretive Barred Owl, or the powerful, yet petite, Eastern Screech Owl may be the most dominant species. All have different habitat requirements that are met to some degree within the parks. The booming call of the Great Horned Owl is a familiar sound in nearly all of the Metroparks during the fall and early-winter; as is the horse-like “whinny” of the Eastern Screech Owl. Harder to find is the Barred Owl. This denizen of the deep woods may not be as widely spread as the other two species; but this makes their presence even more of a treat. Add to the list of Owl species those that migrate into and through the area each spring and fall; and you could build quite a list of “Owls at the Metroparks.” Saw-whet Owls, Long-eared Owls, an occasional Short-eared Owl, and the beautiful Snowy Owl all make appearances in at least a few of the parks during these times. That makes this time of year exciting for birders interested in catching glimpses of owls, so hooo can you spot? Come find out for yourself.
If you are interested in learning more about owls, check our online calendar for upcoming events. Many of our Nature Centers offer programming designed around owls, including owl prowls and owl festivals at various times throughout the year. You too can get caught up in the mystery and intrigue that surrounds our majestic owls.