We often hear their voices calling across the night air. The soft “hoo” of the Great Horned Owl, the familiar “who cooks for you?” of the Barred Owl or the trilling whinny of the Eastern Screech Owl, all share our yards, trees and gardens, although the largely nocturnal birds are more often heard than seen. With over 200 species found worldwide and 19 in the U.S., they are out there in the darkness and a functioning part of the ecosystem.
Anyone who has ever shelled out a few dollars for a “decoy” owl to place on their home or near the garden will tell you, owls strike fear in the hearts of rodents, skunks, rabbits and smaller birds likely to feast on plants, roots, fruit and cultivated nuts. Although potential prey are usually quick to catch on to the decoy ruse, rendering it ineffective, the premise is sound. Owls are aggressive carnivores, snapping up these garden pests and disappearing before the break of dawn.