Asbury Woods with its wide diversity of habitats surrounded by urban landscape is home to native wildlife, including owls. Of the 8 species of owls found in Pennsylvania, Asbury Woods commonly has three in residence: great horned, screech and the barred owl. Lucky visitors may spot them flying from tree to tree during an evening program, but are more likely to hear the calls. The pine stands adjacent to the parking lot and along the Guided Trail are common locations for owl spotting.
Great Horned Owl
Found in practically all habitats throughout most of North and South America, from swamps to deserts to northern coniferous and mixed forests, the Great Horned Owl is an aggressive and powerful hunter. Their prey varies depending on their habitat and can include rabbits, hawks, snakes, smaller owls, and even porcupines. Their very poor sense of smell also makes them one of the few predators willing to catch and eat skunks. Great Horned owls begin nesting very early in the north, making use of nests abandoned by other large birds such as hawks, eagles, crows, or herons. Native to our area, Great Horned Owl calls can occasionally be heard at night throughout some of the wilder areas of our region.
Smaller than most other owl species, the robin-sized Eastern Screech Owl is common over much of the eastern United Stated. These small nocturnal birds can even be found in city parks and shady suburbs, where many human residents are unaware they have an owl for a neighbor. Eastern Screech Owls are cavity nesters, occupying tree cavities and abandoned woodpecker nests. They typically prey on large insects and small rodents, sometimes even catching flying insects in the air. Despite the name, screech-owls do not actually make a “screech” sound. The call of this species sounds more like a whinny or a soft trill.
The Barred Owl is a fairly large owl with a rounded head and vertical stripes, or bars, which give this bird its name. This nocturnal bird is native to the Eastern North America, although its range is spreading west across the northern United States. While this owl is only slightly smaller than the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl is a far less aggressive bird, which often results in the Barred Owl being driven out of shared wooded habitats by the larger more aggressive species. A Barred Owl call contains the characteristic “Whoo” sound that is often associated with owls. Upon hearing the typical Barred Owl call, listeners often hear the words "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”