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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Winter Nesting Great Horned Owl

I like when I stumble across some interesting bit of info on some relatively common piece of nature that a lot of people probably know about but I didn't until just now.

This wild trivia hit me in an email newsletter from the NY DEC.  It's about the Great Horned Owl and the fact the owls nest in January & February and can hatch their eggs in hollow tree cavities when the air temperature is well below zero, as low as -27 F.

That one fact prompted me to do some research, well at least a Google search, and there I came upon the following tidbits of Great Horned Owl life I'll share with anyone who is still reading this and wants to continue.

Great Horned Owls nest in hollow trees, stumps, ledges, abandoned squirrel nests, old crow nests, caves, bards and abandoned buildings.  They are the most widespread and common of the owls.

Their diet is varied, capturing and eating what opportunity presents them with.  It includes small mammals like mice, voles, rabbits, squirrels, rats, bats and skunks.  They're one of the few predators the skunk has. Domestic cats are also on the owls menu.  They eat other birds too, even other owl species and birds like hawks, osprey, falcons, waterfowl, and crows.

Their eyes are almost the same size as a human eye and they are fixed, in other words they can't move them in their sockets.  In order to look in another direction the owl has to turn its head which it can rotate an amazing 270 degrees.  Their hearing is superb with each ear located on a slightly different axis.  This helps them differentiate the direction a sound is coming from, something they excel at.

So when the evening comes you hear an owl call that sounds something like, "Who cooks for you; Who cooks for you all?" rest assured it's not the Great Horned Owl but the Barred Owl announcing its presence.  The Great Horned Owl is more of a hoot, as in, "hoo-hoo hoooooo hoo-hoo".  Sometimes the they let out a hair raising, blood curdling shriek.

Well that's it, that concludes this lesson on great horned owls.  Like I said earlier, I did some research, not a lot but enough to satisfy my curiosity. It's been a hoot!