Buddy the Barred Owl

February 15, 2023

Over the years, we have had a barred owl we call Buddy here at the farm. Sometimes we don’t see him for months at a time and other times we see him almost every day. You might wonder how we know it’s the same owl? Actually we don’t, but we think it’s a safe bet based on his use of certain perches and other behavioral characteristics that simply speak “Buddy” to us.

As you can see from the featured image, Buddy has a favorite metal fence post on which he likes to perch. He often spends up to an hour on his post first thing in the morning and just before sunset. In the featured image, he is perched on the post a bit after sunset, hence the dark background.

Buddy perched in a favorite cedar tree.

When not on his fence post, we frequently see Buddy in one of three favorite cedar trees. I usually have a blind set up near one or more of the trees to try to get as close as I can. My pop-up blinds don’t seem to bother him as he often grabs voles within a few feet of the blind, sometimes hitting the side of the tent with his wings.

Buddy flying low in search of his favorite prey — prairie voles.

Prairie voles are Buddy’s prey of choice here at the farm. He catches them at will, sometimes consuming several during a hunt. I rarely get a decent photo of Buddy with his prey as he usually takes them to a private location deep in the cedars before he swallows them. Every once in awhile, I watch him tear the vole apart before eating it a section at a time.

A prairie vole in the field where Buddy hunts.

Prairie voles are similar to mice but larger and with a short tail. They are ubiquitous in the fields surrounding our house and a choice prey for not only owls and hawks but also coyotes. In the image above, I caught one looking out through the grass toward my blind one afternoon.

Buddy in the grass after catching a vole.

When Buddy catches a vole in the grass he often sits on his prey for up to five minutes, constantly craning his neck around, looking for crows and other predators that might steal his catch. He always appears nervous and vulnerable during his time on the ground. Eventually he will fly up and head off to the cedars with his prey.

A nice flight shot, surprisingly in the bright light of day.

Sometimes we see Buddy in the early afternoon when the light is still bright, as indicated by the flight shot above. As a general rule, I’ve always found barred owls to be more active during daylight hours than other species such as the great horned owl.

Back on his favorite hunting perch.

At this point you might be wondering how I know that Buddy is a “Buddy” and not a “Betty.” Up until recently I really wasn’t sure but now that we are in the nesting season I would expect the owl to be tending eggs if it were a female but we have been seeing him on his favorite post as recently as yesterday. Earlier in the fall we did see another barred owl interacting with Buddy so maybe that one turned out to be his mate. We haven’t seen it in weeks.

Buddy on a beautiful cedar perch right off our deck.

I actually took the final image above from our deck. One of Buddy’s favorite perches is just off the northeast corner of our house so I can set up my camera and 500 mm lens on the deck a couple hours before sunset and hope that he might show up.

Barred owls are particularly fond of hunting near water so I often find Buddy down by my pond although I don’t have any great pics to share. Our pond is full of frogs and salamanders in the summer so it makes for a nice change of diet from voles. But once the winter freeze hits, the pond becomes pretty useless for our feathered friend.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed hearing about Buddy the owl. I’ll keep you posted on any new developments, especially if some owlets turn up in the spring.

Love to all,


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