|June is shown here preening her
tail feathers in one of the few quiet moments of her day. Ward
delivered only four meals last night and they must have been of the small
variety because June let him hear about it all day. She whined incessantly
and even hooted a couple of times, without a reply from Ward. She
also climbed up to the door many times, where she appeared to be listening
for a response (lower picture). When he finally called home at 6pm, she
flew out and did some very loud hooting at him before returning to
the nest. He apparently got the message and had delivered seven meals by
11pm this evening. They must have been small prey items again and were
delivered with no hooting on Ward's part and no let-up in June's whining.
I can only speculate on the reasons for Ward's shift to much smaller prey this year, but barred owls are opportunistic hunters who survive by adapting to changes in their environment. It is possible that the record mild winter favored some of the smaller creatures, while other unusual events may have limited populations of some larger prey species. One unusual happening that may have impacted the rodent population was last year's complete failure of the acorn crop. The acorn failure was caused by a hard freeze in late spring, which killed off the early growth on the oak trees. There are many other possible explanations, but no way to be certain. Ward and June will just have to make the best of what their territory provides.
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