Brink said that he has most commonly seen owls at the Uppgaard Wildlife Management area on County Road 16. Uppgaard WMA is a great place to snowshoe or hike in the winter with 110 acres of forest to explore. Trail maps are available at the arched entrance. Brink has also detailed other great places to spot birds around the Whitefish Chain for Birds of the Byway . A pamphlet with a birding checklist is available at many area locations as well as online here. It details the best places to stop along the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway- which circles the Whitefish Chain- in order to sight birds.
Brink recommended searching for owls in the early morning and late evening, when they’re active but still relatively easy to spot. He said that a major part of owling is traveling to owl habitat and simply listening for their calls. Often crows will mob predator birds like owls and hawks. In the past, Brink has followed the cries of a group of crows in order to spot owls, eagles and other flying predators.
While snowy owls aren’t year-round Minnesota residents, several other varieties of owls are.
“The biggest is the great horned owl, and that’s pretty common,” Brink said. He suggested searching for the great horned owl in upland habitat and even agricultural areas, as well as areas of forest where oaks mix with pine. The great horned, as well as the barred owl, are fairly common in Minnesota and easy to spot because of their large size. These owls range around two feet in height with wingspans of more than three feet.
Brink said the barred owl can often be heard near swamps, year round but especially in the early spring, with a call that sounds very like the phrase “Who cooks for you?” Barred owls will occasionally visit feeders in search of mice, but are more often found near wetlands and mixed forest.
Other types of migrant owls, which spend the winter in Minnesota, include the northern-hawk owl and the great gray owl. While other, smaller owl species also inhabit Minnesota, they’re more difficult to spot because of their size.
To learn more about owling, visit owling.com, an online resource for birders in search of owls. The International Owl Center, at internationalowlcenter.org, also has information on owls, owl research and conservation.
Photo by Judd Brink, owner of Minnesota Backyard Birds.