Owls spend their nights hooting to the darkness, communicating with others of their kind through indecipherable but recognizable hoots.

From 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, some curious locals will be be eavesdropping on those mating conversations.

About 30 people will hike through the woods surrounding Starr’s Cave Nature Center during the annual Des Moines County Conservation Owl Prowl.

"January and February are active months for barred owls because it is when they begin looking for a partner" said Kent Rector, environmental education coordinator for DMCC. "They use sound and body language to try to impress each other in hopes of finding a mate."

Rector said the group will focus on calling barred owls and great horned owls.

“We can typically get a barred owl to call back, because by nature, they are curious and territorial,” Rector said in a previous interview. “They will call back to try to flush out of their territory, and if we’re extremely lucky, they might swoop in close.”

Best known as a hoot owl for its distinctive call, barred owls make their homes in dense woods across Canada, the eastern United States and south to Mexico. Rector said they are one of four types of owls found in Des Moines County, though he doesn't expect to run across any barn owls or screech owls.

Before the group goes out to call owls, they will meet inside the nature center, 11627 Starr’s Cave Road, for a presentation by the Save Our Aviary Resources (SOAR). The presentation will include three live owls.

The program will last a little more than an hour, but it can last longer if the group has a hankering to hear more owl calls.

Rector said those who want to participate but have yet to sign up should call Starr’s Cave today at (319) 753-5808 so there will be enough materials for the owl calls.

There is no cost for the program, but space is limited.