Who Cooks for You?
Updated: Dec 27, 2022
The sound of a barred owl hooting is very familiar to me as an outdoor educator. It is one of the easiest owl calls to imitate and the most common owl in NH. In your head, you think "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?", while out of you mouth comes a guttural hooting.
I have taken thousands of students outdoors to experience the night the way it was meant to be...dark.
One of the things we would listen for is owls. I taught people how to imitate the barred owl call and we would practice it in unison. Occasionally, a real barred owl would call back. More often another night hike group would call back. Though the students thought they were calling back and forth with real owls. :)
The best time to try to call a barred owl in closer, is in January when their courtship begins. They are very vocal and will respond to most attempts at a call. I usually call out twice and then wait and listen. After a few minutes, I call out twice again. I figure the owl may have heard a noise the first time and is listening for the call the second time.
One of my favorite books for young children about calling for owls is Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. Though the owl in the book is not a barred owl, but a great horned owl. I like to ask the students to imitate the hooting with me when we encounter it in the book.
Want to learn owl calls yourself?
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is sharing recorded sounds of common owls in the U.S. and Canada, so you can download them on your computer or phone and become familiar with these nocturnal voices.