Eat now or save for later? The female Barred Owl has begun storing number of prey items in the nest box this morning. In this clip, the male delivers a rodent to the female, which she promptly stores in the corner of the box. In past years, we’ve seen the owls keep a number of prey items in the “pantry” leading up to hatch, possibly in an attempt to ensure their hatchlings have food available as soon as they’re out of the shell.
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Jim Carpenter, President and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, has hosted a camera-equipped owl box in his wooded backyard since 1999. Set more than 30 feet high against the trunk of a pignut hickory tree, this Barred Owl box was first occupied in 2006. Since then, the box has hosted several nests, including successful attempts since 2013.
The camera system was updated in 2013 with an Axis P3364-LVE security camera and microphone mounted to the side of the box and connected to Jim’s house via 200 feet of ethernet cable. To keep predators like raccoons from investigating the nest, aluminum flashing was wrapped around the tree. An infrared illuminator in the box means you can keep track of the owls’ comings and goings throughout the night (don’t worry—the light is invisible to the owls).
Since the birds aren’t banded, we can’t tell whether this is the same pair as in past years. Although male and female Barred Owls look alike in their plumage, females can be up to a third bigger than males. You can also tell the difference between them by watching their behavior; only the female incubates the eggs and chicks, but the male is responsible for the bulk of the feeding, ferrying prey items to the incubating female, and sharing them with her inside and outside of the box.
Learn more about Barred Owls in our AllAboutBirds Species Guide at