OWLS AND GOATSUCKERS

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Owls - I have seen a Short-eared Owl on one occasion, in December, after dark,  hunting Pool 3 and marshes to the south of it, but they are not regulars as far as I know.

              Barred Owls are the most frequently heard and seen owls on the refuge, as they tend to be a bit more diurnal or crepuscular than the other owls.  They are frequently heard at dusk doing their "who cooks for you" calls, often in pairs, around the parking lot.  They can also be found in some of the smaller hammocks out in the marshes.
       Great Horned Owls aren't frequently seen or heard from the parking lot or points to the west, probably because they are more of an upland species than Barred Owls.  I have seen an individual Great Horned on several occasions perched and calling in late afternoon/early evening from the hammock south of the junction of Pools 1 and 3 (the Hammock Nature Trail goes through this woodland).
                Screech Owls are more frequently heard than seen, and are found in all of the wooded habitats of the refuge.  They are one of the more nocturnal of the owls, though they will sometimes respond to an imitation of their call during daylight hours.
      Barn Owls are probably the most difficult owl to see. They are permanent residents, and probably nest on the refuge.  A roost of one of these owls in one of the hammocks out in the marsh produced numerous pellets that were full of the skulls and skeletal remains of marsh-dwelling rodents, including Sigmodon hispidus and Neofiber alleni.   Apparently these owls regularly hunt the marshes at night.  They are one of the more strictly nocturnal of the owls, however.

Goatsuckers - Whip-poor-wills winter in small numbers on the refuge, but are seldom seen, and usually can only be heard calling sporadically for a week or two in late winter before they migrate.

      Chuck-will's-widows return to central Florida around April, and are common summer residents and breeding birds on the refuge.  They can be heard calling around dusk from any of the hammock habitats, and can be seen foraging over the dikes just after sunset.  They breed in drier pine or hammock habitats, and if you wander around off the trails enough in the late spring or early summer, you might be lucky enough to flush one up.  The females tend to sit tight, though, and sometimes do a broken-wing display when disturbed.  The female in this photograph has two hatchlings, one tucked under each wing.  You can see some of the pinfeathers from the little guy on the right.  Here are photos of a nest and nestlings (hideous little beasts, aren't they?).
      Common Nighthawks are sometimes seen foraging over the marshes and dikes around dusk on summer or early fall evenings.   Listen for their buzzy peent call - its the easiest way to locate them.

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