Spooky owls and goatsuckers make weird sounds during their breeding season and keep the local rodent, insect and lizard population in balance.

You may think that your ears are playing tricks on you when you hear the low “hoo, hoo… hoo-hoo-hoo… whooo, whooooooo” of the Great Horned owl. At two feet tall with feathery horns on its head and a grip that can crush a man’s hand, this is truly an impressive owl. Say goodby to your local rabbits, rats, mice and even a feral cat or two. Look in tall trees near a pond or canal or watch for other birds as they mob their unwelcome neighbor. They nest in winter so that their fledglings will have plenty to eat in the spring when baby birds and mammals are available.

The hawk-like screech of the Barn Owl may give you a start while it’s white face and underparts yield a ghostly appearance to this 18 inch tall owl. Found in the country and cities, this owl will clean up the local rat and mouse population. Put up a nest box with the help of a friend, (it is heavy), and clean it out each January before nesting starts.

A Screech Owl nest box will attract these little owls to your yard and also Wood Ducks if placed near a pond. The owls make a cute whinny and an eerie, staccato sound like two sticks drum-rolled on a small hollow log. Mice, Cockroaches, tree frogs and lizards make up their diet. The fuzzy gray face of a young owl staring down at you as it fills the entrance hole to it’s nest box will leave you laughing your fool head off.

Goatsuckers, named because their large whiskered mouths once led people to believe that they actually entered barns to suck the teats of sleeping goats are represented here by Nighthawks, Whip-Poor-Wills and the Chuck-Will’s-Widow. Although they are here from September to March, the rare Whip-Poor-Will is silent until just before leaving to breed along the Southeastern U.S.

The more abundant Chuck-Will’s-Widow calls non stop in the evenings of spring and early summer. The call is a low “chuck” followed by a higher pitched will’s widow. It silently winters here south of Lake Okeechobee and breeds throughout the state and the southeastern U.S. This 12 inch tall bird is strange to watch as it flys through the trees at dusk on wings two feet across.

The courtship dive of a Common Nighthawk starts at 150 feet in the air and ends with a loud broooom as the primary feathers on it’s two foot wide,narrow outstretched wings vibrate at high speed. Wintering in the northern half of South America, they breed throughout the entire U.S. in the spring. Chucks and Nighthawks both nest on the ground. Watch your step when walking on gravel, even if it is on your flat gravel roof. All three birds eat insects while in flight. Take the kids out for a fun, spooky evening identifying the strange sounds that our night birds make. Hopefully they will loose their fear of the night and enjoy camping better this summer.