From Keith Bagnall:
Now that seasonal staff is arriving in full force, the wildlife crew would love to hear about your owl sightings! We're a small crew, and there are so many places for owls to hide, any information you can pass along is extremely valuable.
As you may know, earlier this year the US Fish & Wildlife Service initiated a review of Northern Spotted Owls under the Endangered Species Act to consider elevating their status from threatened to endangered. Results from owl monitoring at Mount Rainier have shown apparent declines in the number of spotted owls and territory occupancy, as well as an increase in non-native barred owls which compete for space and resources. These species are similar in many respects, but the photos below will help you tell them apart.
Both species are quite large, measuring 17-20" tall with 40-42" wingspans.
***From the front: Spotted owls are a chocolate brown color with numerous white spots, while barred owls appear more pale with dark vertical streaking on the belly.
***Take a look at the face: Spotted owls have mostly brown feathers on the facial disk (minus the "eyebrows") while barred owl faces look more gray, even in dim forest light.
***From the back: White marks on spotted owls are much less apparent and chaotically arranged, compared to distinct white horizontal markings on the backs of barred owls.
***In flight: Both species look remarkably similar at quick glance.
What about hoots?? Simply put, there is a LOT of variation in owl vocalizations. If you hear an owl, or an owl-like sound in the forest, we'd like to know. We have an extensive library of owl calls and can work through it on a case-by-case basis.
All that said, there are a few things to note when recording owl info. The more detail the better, but at a minimum we would need the date, description of what you saw/heard, and a location. If we aren't already aware of an owl in that area, we'll follow up on your report by surveying the site and get back to you with our results.
Contact me by email keith_bagnall (at) nps.gov OR phone x6774 .