Barred Owl Hunting A Roadside Ditch

I was cruising along the auto tour road at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, enjoying the scenery, when a flash of brown caught my eye. There, perched low on a branch right next to the road, was a Barred Owl!

Barred Owl Low In A Tree
Barred Owl Low In A Tree

This wasn’t your typical high-up-in-the-trees owl sighting. This guy was practically eye level, perched strategically above a water-filled roadside ditch. Knowing that Barred Owls sometimes include crayfish in their diet, and considering the convenient location of its watery perch, I figured it was on the hunt for a crustacean snack.

Luckily, I had my camera handy and managed to snap a few photos before the owl decided it had had enough attention and took flight.

Barred Owls, it turns out, are much more adventurous eaters than you might think. While their reputation centers around hunting small mammals like mice, they’re actually opportunistic predators. This means they’ll happily take advantage of a diverse buffet, including birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and yes, even crayfish!

Their hunting technique for crayfish is quite straightforward: they use their sharp talons to snatch them right out of the water. And for those owls who develop a taste for these crustaceans, there can even be a side effect – a pinkish tint to their belly feathers! This color change is caused by carotenoids, pigments found in crayfish that also give flamingos their pink plumage.

Barred Owl
Barred Owl

So, next time you’re out exploring wildlife refuges, keep your eyes peeled not just for the usual suspects, but also for the feathered opportunists who might surprise you with their unexpected culinary choices. You never know what you might find!