WHAT THE PECK: The Who’s Who of South Shore Owls

(Illustration: James Tilley)

Let’s fly right into it! We have 11 species of owls in Nova Scotia — here are four of the more common (and coolest) wise fliers:

Barred Owl

The most common around here, the barred owl is named for its brown and white “barred” plumage. Their distinctive hoot sounds like a sassy chef asking, “who cooks for you?” Barred owls don’t move around much. From a sample of over 150 barred owls, none had moved more than 6 miles! A lesson in contentment. 

Great-Horned Owl

The largest of the Nova Scotian owls, this big boss has two tufts that look like horns and piercing yellow eyes. They are supreme predators and can take down prey bigger than themselves. They mostly eat mammals and other birds, including ospreys and other owls.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

This tiny owl gets its name from its raspy call resembling a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone. They only come out at night, so they’re a rare sight. As soon as the chicks have developed feathers, the female leaves to find another mate, while the male tends to the chicks. 

Snowy Owl

Poster child of the Arctic, the stunning snowy owl is irruptive, meaning they appear here certain winters but not others. They tend to get whiter with age, males especially (Hedwig from Harry Potter is a male snowy owl). Unlike most owls which are largely nocturnal, snowy owls will hunt all hours of the day. Their thick, feathery insulation makes them the heaviest owl in North America. 


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