Francis Harper’s Okefenokee Florida Barred Owl

Barred Owl, Strix varia, perched in a tree along the Trembling Earth Nature Trail in Stephen C Foster State Park, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia, USA. May 4, 2020. © Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from

In October 1913, Francis Harper explored the Okefenokee Swamp and published his journal in The Auk, the official publication of the American Ornithological Society.

FLORIDA BARRED OWL; ‘ Deer Owl’; ‘Hoot Owl.’- Very common. Its deep, booming cry is sure to be heard at night, and is so characteristic of the Okefinokee that the natives use it as one of their signals when they are in trouble or far from home. The Barred Owl by night and the Red-shouldered Hawk by day furnish a round of weird and startling calls that one cannot soon forget. The former is a typical bird of the gloom-haunted cypress bays, the river bottoms of the Suwannee, and the small cypress ponds on the islands. It begins its calls in the late afternoon and continues them well into the evening. In the forenoon they may be heard until 9 or 10 o’clock, and occasionally throughout the hottest day. Several times its notes were uttered at midday when light rains were falling or impending. Besides its well-known resonant call, we heard a subdued, querulous note. The ‘ Deer Owl, ‘ exhibit considerable curiosity; they responded frequently to poor imitations of their cry, and sometimes to the ‘ squeak.’

A Biological Reconnaissance of Okefinokee Swamp: The Birds
Authors: Albert H. Wright and Francis Harper
Source: The Auk, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Oct., 1913), pp. 477-505
Published by: Oxford University Press

iNaturalist observation:

eBird checklist:


  1. Hi William. Enjoyed reading this post – nicely done.
    It provided me with some information I was not aware of.
    For example, I always associated this owl with night-time only activity. Wasn’t aware it started earlier…
    Keep up the great work!
    God Bless…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ken! I love reading the journals of the explorers from the 1700s to early 1900s. The “urban legends” in their journals are entertaining, even though now dispelled by scientific study. But even though written in 1913, everything in that excerpt from Harper still takes place today! I’ve heard the Barred Owls calling all hours of the day in the Okefenokee. They can make you jump right out of your sleeping bag if they perch and call above your tent in the middle of the night! I’ll be heading back down to Oke in a couple weeks and can’t wait to hear them again. Thanks for reading and commenting! William

      Liked by 1 person

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