Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Boardwalk Assassins Strike Again!

At the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, the Barred Owls (Strix varia) patrolling the backside of the boardwalk between #155 and #177 have struck again.  A visitor returning from the boardwalk reported seeing an owl eating a turtle on the handrail.  Previously, we have reported owls in the same area unsuccessfully trying to eat an adult Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum) and hunting a variety of other prey..."Wood Duck ducklings, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and crayfish."

Barred Owl - Mark Musselman
Although we have no images, we have observed Barred Owls in another territory eating a small Yellow-bellied Slider.  In conjunction with the mud turtle attack noted in the previous paragraph, we knew of two turtle species preyed upon by the resident owls.  Therefore, we were interested in seeing what species of turtle was consumed today.  Near #167, we found the remains of a small Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) shown in the images below.  Musk Turtles have minimal plastron (bottom shell), so fleshy parts, including the head, were exposed to attack by the owl's sharp beak and talons.  Note that the shell appears to have been pried and snapped apart to get at the those regions protected by the plastron.

Musk Turtle Eaten by Barred Owl - Mark Musselman

Musk Turtle Eaten by Barred Owl - Mark Musselman

Musk Turtle Eaten by Barred Owl - Mark Musselman
When you visit, keep your eyes open and maybe you can spot an owl dining on an item not yet on our published menu!

1 comment:

Florida Turtle Conservation Trust said...

I am very interested in the observations of Barred Owls eating turtles. I am researching a paper on observations of my own on this subject. Could someone with knowledge of this please contact me at

Tim Walsh

Assistant Director
Florida Turtle Conservation Trust


Manager of Natural History Collections and Citizen Science
Bruce Museum