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Barn Owls in Eastern Washington

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We had made about three different trips to the Tri-Cities or Walla Walla area this spring, and each time had noticed on eBird there were always multiple Barn Owl sightings off of Dodd Road about 15 minutes past where the Snake River meets the Columbia. A quiet farm road with a large cattle ranch made us assume the Barn Owl must live in a nearby home or barn. We were wrong, these owls lived in a cave and we were lucky to spot them finally when driving through on our way home from Walla Walla. We were hoping to simply spot one perched somewhere looking for field mice but knew the odds were slim since we were coming through mid-day when they’d likely not be out hunting. We stopped by a small pond with tall reeds as we spotted some Yellow-headed Blackbirds and some ducks (see in the gallery below) when we noticed a bunch of holes or small caves in the nearby rocks. One of the larger holes had a lot of what looked like bird droppings all down the front of it. Sure enough when we looked through our binoculars in the darkened hole we spotted a barn owl nest with a mother and nestling!

I find Barn Owls to have quite a creepy looking face, since you can barely see their beak it looks like they have no nose our mouth, just a flat face with huge eyes like a creature out of a Guillermo del Toro movie. But maybe you find them fluffy and cute but I’m sure the field mice in the nearby farms don’t agree when they’re about to be swallowed whole. Barn Owls also make a horrifying screeching noise, not your normal hoot-hoot like many other owls. Not a sound you’d want to hear at night which is when they come out to eat. Interestingly Barn Owl females are more showy than males with their coloring, females with more spots are supposedly more attractive to males as well as more resistant to parasites. The female pictured here has lots of spots which is likely a good sign for this family.

If you happen to be heading out this way check out Wallula State Park and McNary National Wildlife Refuge, just south and north of Dodd Road respectively. Also you can learn more about our last adventure to the Tri-Cities area here. Wallula State Park is where the confluence of the Walla Walla and Columbia Rivers and McNary is just near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. On a side note I recently learned the Snake River starts near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and winds it way through Idaho and Oregon before ending here in the Tri-Cities. We’ll be visiting Yellowstone this August so stay tuned for some Yellowstone posts and pictures!

Things to Note:

  • Wallula State Park allows hunting further east of the highway until 1pm certain times of year. You may want to avoid if it is during hunting season.
  • Bring sunscreen – even in winter there is a good chance for sunshine and sunburn! We like to use high SPF spray sunscreen as it’s easier to apply.
  • Please check out our resources page to learn more about the equipment we used to take these shots!

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