I’ve never found it easy to find an owl when I am out with my camera. Harder yet is finding the opportunity to photograph one. With their nocturnal nature, they are active when I am not. Still, every once in a while you get fortunate and have the opportunity to see one in the wild and photograph it. It’s always a thrill.
Reading about the Great Horned Owl is fascinating. There is so much to learn and discover. Here are a few of the facts that I found the most interesting.
- The Great Horned Owls is also known as the tiger owl or the hoot owl
- The Great Horned Owl’s eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction.
- Since Great Horned Owls are one of the main predators of crows and their young, crows will sometimes congregate from considerable distances to mob owls and caw angrily at them for hours on end. When the owl tries to fly off to avoid this harassment, it is often followed by the mob of crows.
- Great Horned Owls respond to intruders and other threats with bill-clapping, hisses, screams, and guttural noises, eventually spreading their wings and striking with their feet if the threat escalates
- North American Great Horned Owls are not migratory and will generally remain in the same territory year around.
- The Great Horned Owl will usually adopt a nest that was built by another species, but they also use cavities in live trees, dead snags, deserted buildings, cliff ledges, and human-made platforms.
- The Great Horned Owl is one of the earliest nesting birds in North America, often laying eggs weeks or even months before other raptors.
- Typically, male Great Horned Owls have a favorite roosting site not far from the nest. While roosting, Great Horned Owls may rest in the “tall-thin” position, where they sit as erect as possible and hold themselves as slim as they can. This kind of posture is well known as a method of camouflage for other owls, like long-eared owls or great grey owls
- Due to their short but broad wings, Great Horned Owls are ideally suited for low speed and maneuverability
- Great Horned Owls can fly at speeds of more than 40 mph in level flight
- When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open.
- It is estimated that a family of Great Horned Owls with two offspring would need to take about a half dozen voles to a dozen mice every night to satisfy their dietary requirements.
- Great Horned Owls hunt mainly by watching from a snag, pole or other high perch, sometimes completely concealed by the dusky night and/or partially hidden by foliage.
- The Great Horned Owl’s hunting activity tends to peak between 8:30 pm until midnight and then can pick back up from 4:30 am to sunrise
- Almost all prey of the Great Horned Owl is killed by crushing with the owl’s feet or by incidentally stabbing of the talons.
- The Great Horned Owl’s prey is swallowed whole when possible.
- When prey is swallowed whole, Great Horned Owls regurgitate pellets of bone and other non-digestible bits about 6 to 10 hours later. Great Horned Owl pellets are dark gray or brown in color and are very large, 3.0 to 4.0 inches long and 1.5 inches thick, and have been known to contain skulls up to 1.2 inches wide.
- The Great Horned Owl’s signature method when dealing with large prey is to behead the victim before it is taken to the owl’s nest or eating perch. In a study conducted in Kansas, out of 28 kills, 60% of prey items were found to have been decapitated. The prey’s legs may also be removed, as will (in some bird prey) the wings. The Great Horned Owl will also crush the bones of its prey to make it more compact for carrying.
- In frigid areas, where larger prey cannot be eaten quickly, the Great Horned Owl may let uneaten food freeze and then thaw it out later using its own body heat.
- The oldest Great Horned Owl on record was at least 28 years old when it was found in Ohio in 2005.
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