Photographed in Brazos Bend State Park in November of 2002 using a Nikon N90s loaded with Fuji Provia color slide film, ASA: 100 with a Nikkor AF 300mm f/4 lens.
This owl would launch my obsession with photographing birds. I decided to drive out to Brazos Bend SP and try out my new 300mm lens. I drove to the back of the Park and explore the woods trail. I walked up on this predator as he was looking for lizards in the grass. He leaped off this limb to the ground, grabbed a green lizard and flew up to a higher branch, and had breakfast. It was one of those wildlife encounters you don't forget. I just wish I had taken more photos of him that day. After I switched to digital, I had this image scanned into a jpg file.
The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps. But this attractive owl, with soulful brown eyes and brown-and-white-striped plumage, can also pass completely unnoticed as it flies noiselessly through the dense canopy or snoozes on a tree limb. Originally a bird of the east, during the twentieth century it spread through the Pacific Northwest and southward into California.
The Great Horned Owl is the most serious predatory threat to the Barred Owl. Although the two species often live in the same areas, a Barred Owl will move to another part of its territory when a Great Horned Owl is nearby.
Pleistocene fossils of Barred Owls, at least 11,000 years old, have been dug up in Florida, Tennessee, and Ontario.
Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. Of 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away.
Despite their generally sedentary nature, Barred Owls have recently expanded their range into the Pacific Northwest. There, they are displacing and hybridizing with Spotted Owls—their slightly smaller, less aggressive cousins—which are already threatened from habitat loss.
Young Barred Owls can climb trees by grasping the bark with their bill and talons, flapping their wings, and walking their way up the trunk.
Brown bird with a flat head.
Distinguished from the Boat-tailed, the Great-tailed has a flat head. Photographed in Anahuac NWR.
A big, brash blackbird, the male Great-tailed Grackle shimmers in iridescent black and purple, and trails a tail that will make you look twice. The rich brown females are about half the male’s size. Flocks of these long-legged, social birds strut and hop on suburban lawns, golf courses, fields, and marshes in Texas, the Southwest, and southern Great Plains. In the evening, raucous flocks pack neighborhood trees, filling the sky with their amazing (some might say ear-splitting) voices.
In winter, enormous flocks of both male and female Great-tailed Grackles gather in “roost trees.” These winter roosts can contain thousands of individuals, with flocks of up to half a million occurring in sugarcane fields in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
In 1900 the northern edge of the Great-tailed Grackle’s range barely reached southern Texas. Since the 1960s they’ve followed the spread of irrigated agriculture and urban development into the Great Plains and West, and today are one of North America’s fastest-expanding species.
Because they’re smaller and require less food, female Great-tailed Grackle chicks are more likely than their brothers to survive to fledging. Likewise, adult females may outlive males, resulting in a “sex-biased” population with greater numbers of females than males.
Although you’ll usually see them feeding on land, Great-tailed Grackles may also wade into the water to grab a frog or fish.
Great-tailed Grackles—especially females—learn to recognize individual researchers working in their breeding colonies, and will react with a chut alarm call when they see the researcher, even away from the nesting site.
The Great-tailed and Boat-tailed grackles have at times been considered the same species. Current thinking is that they are closely related, but different species.