How to Do Owling? The Basics of Owling I All You Need to Know

  • Reading time:10 mins read
  • Post last modified:August 17, 2022

Great Horned owls sitting

How to Do Owling? The Basics of Owling

Owling is a terrific way to add enigmatic raptors to your life list, but it requires particular considerations for success. Understanding the fundamentals of owl identification will assist you go owling with wonderful views of these exquisite birds of prey.

When to Go Owling?

Although most owls are nocturnal, this does not always imply that they may only be observed in the dead of night. Burrowing owls, short-eared owls, and snowy owls, for example, are more energetic during the day than almost all other owl species.

The greatest times to watch owls are around dawn or dusk, when these birds are more visible and active. A starry night may also be an excellent time for owling because the moon gives extra light for spotting owls.

Many owls do not migrate and may be found in the same region all year, however certain seasons of the year are preferable for owling than others. Birders who bird by ear will have an easier time finding owls in late winter when owls are calling more often to attract mates or claim their territory.

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Nesting owls are more difficult to locate in early summer because they guard their nests, so this is not the greatest time to look for owls.

However, the period from mid-summer to early fall is perfect for owling since this is when juvenile owls are initially extending their wings, and these younger birds may be less shy and easier to find.

Owl in roosting on forest tree

Before You Leave for Owling

It is critical to be emotionally and physically prepared before embarking on an owling hike. To be ready to go owling, do the following:

• Understand which owl species you are probably to see by studying a field guide. This might help you become acquainted with these species’ favored habitats, field markings, size, and other identifying characteristics.

• To be equipped for birding by ear, research owl cries. Many owls have different sounds, and attentively listening could assist you not only recognize the bird by sound, but also situate the bird for the greatest view.

• Select the appropriate optics. Birding binoculars with larger lenses that collect more light are the best option for observing owls in low light settings, and a spotting scope can be useful for watching a perched owl without disturbing it.

• Dress accordingly, keeping in mind that temperatures might drop drastically after dusk. To be as inconspicuous to the birds as possible, use non-reflective, silent materials with no metal fasteners that could also reflect light. Darker hues and dark camouflage are the greatest alternatives for owling attire.

• Include suitable evening items in your field bag, such as a powerful flashlight with additional batteries, bug repellent, and warm beverages, if preferred.

• Take a sleep early in the day so you have quite enough stamina for a late night of owling without depleting your energy reserves to the point of danger. You won’t be able to notice owls if you’re bumbling around sleepily.

Where to Go Owling?

All the planning in the world won’t assist you in finding owls if you wouldn’t know where to look. These raptors have broad ranges but may be quite devoted to lucrative hunting areas, and if you knew where owls have recently been observed, you will have a higher chance of locating them yourself.

For information on where to find owls, consult internet discussion boards, sightings reports, or contact a local birding association. If there haven’t been any recent sightings, look for woodland habitats, riparian zones, or forest margins near agricultural regions that have plenty of mice, voles, and other owl prey.

However, always respect private property borders and heed any posted signs for gated preserves or parks.

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Tips for Finding Owls

Even with the finest planning, finding owls may be difficult. If you’re having problems finding owls:

• Keep quiet: Owls have good hearing and therefore will hear you, but the less you disrupt and stress the birds, the better. They are less likely to flee if they do not perceive you as a threat. Turn off or mute cellular phones as well as other mobile devices, and make sure no gear or clothing is producing any noise that may disturb owls.

• Keep your distance: Several owls are aggressive, especially near nesting places. When you observe an owl, try to remain as motionless as possible and avoid approaching too close, since this may startle or worry the bird.

• Listen carefully: Cupping your hands across your ears might help you understand an owl’s call more clearly. Moving around attentively while listening can assist you in triangulating the bird’s position, giving you a greater chance of gaining a decent glimpse. Because many of these birds have different cries and call patterns, careful listening can also aid in recognizing them.

• Look closely: Owls have excellent camouflage, and even when the bird is close, it may be difficult to see properly. Examine dubious lumps or bumps on branches and keep an eye out for head movements or extending wings, which might indicate where the bird is sitting.

• Stay safe: Always keep birdwatching safety in mind, especially while out at night. Stay on the paths and be cautious of and courteous of any other nighttime animals you may come across. Avoid any potentially dangerous situations, and respect both closed parks and preserves as well as private land.

• Minimize lights: While a flashlight may be necessary to observe a trail, avoid swinging the light about to spot an owl. Keep lights aimed down to avoid disturbing the bird’s night vision and making it more scared and vulnerable.

Shine the light on a neighboring limb if required, and only use diffused, indirect light on the bird. Similarly, when owling, avoid using flash photography. Strapping a small fabric, such as a tissue or handkerchief, over a powerful flashlight might help soften the light so that it is less distracting but not too dark to see.

• Minimize recordings: Recordings of owl cries or prey squeaks may entice an owl into a better viewing position, but at a high cost. The birds are reacting to what they perceive to be a prospective partner, competition, or food, and in doing so, they are disregarding vital survival duties like as egg brooding, preening, hunting, and so on.

It could stress and distract the birds, thus any recordings should be used sparingly and should be stopped immediately if the birds get agitated or worried.

If you can’t spot any owls, call local wildlife refuges, birding events, or birdwatching clubs to find out if there are any organized owling walks. These programmes, which are frequently conducted by an expert birder who is familiar with spotting area owls, may be an amazing addition to owls in the wild.

Consider luring owls to your garden to introduce owling straight to your back door, or find the nearest zoo or aviary for up close views and encounters with owls that you may never see in the wild.

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