The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Winter Owl Spotting

- By The Dispatch Staff newsroom@oneidadisp­

Winter presents one of the greatest opportunit­ies to observe owls. Unlike in other seasons, colder weather makes it easier to spot a variety of owl species, due to the lack of tree vegetation and a reduction in ambient noise. Snow absorbs noise. After properly preparing for an outdoor winter adventure of your own, try these tips to aid in a owl-spotting quest:

-Be quiet and alert. If you observe a commotion of birds crowding a treetop or creating angry calls, they could be attempting to mob an unwanted owl. Use nature to guide you in the direction of a camouflage­d owl.

-To better your odds, try owl spotting at dusk when these species become most active before nighttime hunting.

-During daylight hours, scan tree lines and treetops for resting owls. Look for unusual or odd benches and shapes that don’t quite fit in—it could be an owl! On the ground below trees, look for owl pellets and whitewash, owl droppings, which indicate a feathered friend is nearby.

Can you hear an owl but aren’t quite sure of the species? Use the Merlin app’s sound ID feature to help identify the calls around you.

Unsure where to start your quest? Use ebird’s Explore page,, to learn where owl species have been observed closest to you!

Owls are naturally timid and shy of humans. While the hunt to spot an owl can be extremely exciting, make sure to be respectful to these and all birds by maintainin­g safe distances to reduce stress and agitation.

To assist your adventures, consider a guided experience at one of DEC’S Environmen­tal Education Centers or State Parks’ Nature Centers. These sites, including popular birding hotspots like Reinstein Woods and Five Rivers, host owl prowls to empower birders to make this incredible observatio­n. Check out DEC’S events calendar, www. and State Parks’ events page,, to find an owl prowl near you.

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