How do you find an owl in the wild? Actually in my case the owl found me. I was hiking through the woods, which I have been doing a lot of lately on a lot of different trails, when an owl flew right over my shoulder coming from behind me. I have repeated found owls since so I will give you some of my tips.
The owl flying over my shoulder peaked my interest so I kept looking in the areas I hike. Look for an old growth forest with lots of older, thick trunked trees. If they have holes in them, this may be a forest to find some owls. Sometimes they take over nests of hawks, but others times they may nest in a tree hole.
Sometimes I have caught them by seeing movement through the woods. It was a parent hunting. They may fly from a tree to the ground, or from a tree to another tree. The breakfast of champions for owlets seems to be chipmunks. It may be because there are so many of them, or the fact they at times make a lot of noise thereby identifying themselves.
Most of the time barred owls I found do not make the typical “Who cooks for you?” call that is ascribed to them. I have heard a lot of other calls and sounds I have not heard on recordings. If you find them listen to the noise they make and try to remember it as it may help you locate them the next time.
A babies make a weak screech sound when hungry and calling for food. They may do this in early morning or early evening. If you find babies, commit the sound to memory. It will help you locate them in the future.
If you are quiet and aware you have a better chance of finding them. You will have more luck if you do not bring a dog with you. You will have more luck if you go by yourself or have a friend who agrees to be quiet while searching. Don’t have your phone sounds on. If you are preoccupied you may not hear them. If your sounds are on they may stay quiet. You have to be aware of your surroundings and listen to the sounds of the woods.
Sometimes other birds announce the parent owl’s whereabouts. I have seen bluejays going crazy loudly complaining and followed the sounds to find the parent owl. Sometimes that has led me to the owlets. I have not seen them harass the owlets in this manner, just the parents.
After the owlets fledge, the parents and owlets move around to different areas each day I have found. Expand the region you search in around the nest to locate them.
Parents would sometimes be nearby after they fledged, other times not. If you hear a hoot, check it out. They may be calling their mate or their young. You can not always count on them being nearby, unless it is feeding time.
The main advice I have to give is be quiet and respect nature. Do not get too close. Keep a respectful distance. Don’t tell too many people, as they will tell some etc. and the owls may leave and not return. I have heard one story of a whole group of photographers walking through the forest everyday following the owls around and the pair left, never to return. So enjoy nature, but respect nature!