Friday, August 14, 2020

THE GREAT HORNED OWL

I am resharing my photos from November 2011.  I attended a raptor demonstration given by The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia.  My other post can be found here if you haven't seen it already.  I will be sharing a few more next week.
We were introduced to a selection of raptors, one of them being the Great Horned Owl.
I gathered more information on this one.  The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is the most common owl in North and South America, and has adapted to a wide variety of habitats and climates. It has an average life span of 5 to 15 years in the wild but can live anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five years in captivity. His body is 18 to 25 inches (46 to 63 cm) and his wingspan is 3.3 to 4.8 feet (1 to 1.5 cm). His weight is 2 to 5.5 lbs. (1 to 2.5 kg). The male is smaller than the female and has a much lower-pitched call.  
Its range is large because it can be found in Central and South America, from Arctic tree regions in the north, to the Straits of Magellan in the south.  It lives in woodlands, along cliffs and canyons, and in forests.

Its coloring is great camouflage as it has brown, white, gray and black markings that look like the bark of a tree.
Another way of recognizing the Great Horned Owl?  It has a white patch on its throat.  
As you might already know, owls have very good eyesight and excellent hearing that help it hunt at night. Its loosely packed feathers make it almost silent when flying. This makes it easier to sneak up on its prey. They also only see in black and white, but their eyes are as large as humans and are 35 times more sensitive. They cannot move them up and down like we can, so they have developed the ability to rotate their heads approximately 270 degrees. They have 14 neck bones whereas humans have 7.
Adults have large tufts on their heads. These are called "plumicorns" and resemble horns to some and catlike ears to others. Those tufts of feathers that stick up like ears aren't ears at all. No one really knows what they are for. An owl's ears are actually on the side of its head. When an owl is hunting and hears an animal, the sound of it is louder in one ear than in the other. This tells the owl that the animal is closer on that side. The owl turns its head until the sound is equally loud in both ears, then it knows it is facing the animal. They do not have a good sense of smell but their hearing is so acute that they can hear sounds 10 miles away.
The stiff feathers around the eyes act a lot like dish antennas. They reflect sound toward the ear openings.
The structure of an owl's foot is referred to as zygodactyl. This means that two of the toes face forward, while two face backwards. This enables the owls to capture and grasp prey with greater ease. Sometimes the third toe can be rotated forward into a position occasionally used for perching. Of all the owls, the Great Horned Owl has the strongest talons. About 30 pounds (13,000 grams) of force is required to release the owl's grip on an object.
The Great Horned Owl is nocturnal and hunts for small mammals like, mice, rabbits, squirrels and skunks. It also eats birds like ducks and quail. We were also told they have even been known to make off with cats if the opportunity presents itself. It can eat small prey whole but larger prey it will tear into pieces that it can swallow. It cannot digest hair, bone or feathers, so nature fixes that. It regurgitates the undigested parts in owl pellets. You can often tell what an owl has eaten by looking at these pellets.  (This might be a bit too much information for some, but I found all the information about this bird fascinating, and I wanted to read for future reference.  One of the reasons I enjoy going back on old photos, so that I can have a refresher course on certain things I might have forgotten.)
In January and early February it is mating time for the Great Horned Owl. The male and female call to each other during courtship and also bob up and down and puff up to attract a mate. They use abandoned nests of other birds, usually hawks or crows. The female lays two to three eggs. She will raise one family each year. Both the male and female incubate the eggs and provide food for the owlets.
It is a very hardy species and can not only survive temperatures close to forty below zero, but it can sit in that frigid air while incubating those eggs, keeping them at a toasty 99 degrees F. (37 degrees C). A healthy bird's body temperature fluctuates more than a human's would, but a Great Horned Owl's body temperature in Minnesota during February, has been recorded from 100 degrees F (37.5 C) to 105 degrees F (40.4 degrees C). The owl's abundant, thick body feathers allow her to share her warmth with the eggs while keeping the frigid outside air out. Of course, her body is warming the eggs from above.
Would you like to know how it got its name? The scientific name comes from the Latin word 'bubo', which refers to an owl, and the Latinized name is for the state of Virginia, where the first specimen was taken for scientific collection. The common name refers to the large size of the bird and the feather tufts on its head.
This owl has also been called Big Hoot Owl, Cat Owl, Chicken Owl, Eagle Owl, Horned Owl and King Owl.  
The Great Horned Owl can hoot, bark, chuckle, growl, hiss, screech, scream and clack its beak. And did you know a group of owls is called a parliament, bazaar, wisdom or study?
If crows, jays, magpies and songbirds find an owl roosting in their neighborhood, they will harass or 'mob' the owl until the owl finally decided to leave. This is undoubtedly because unwary crows or songbirds are likely to wind up as one of their snacks.

I have enjoyed learning about the Great Horned Owl. I am very grateful to The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, and am thankful that there are places like this with such dedicated people who take in injured birds, rehabilitate and release them back into the wild if they can, and look after them for the rest of their lives if they can't.  I would also like to thank them for such a great demonstration of all the amazing raptors I saw that day.  It is a wonderful memory.

Thank you for sharing that memory with me.  Stay safe out there and have a great weekend!




36 comments:

  1. What wonderful pictures you got! I recognized him right away as a Great Horned. Lots of good info here that I did not know, too!

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  2. Owls (all of them) are a very big weakness of mine. Thank you for this beautiful and informative post.

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    1. You are very welcome EC, happy you enjoyed. I have a fondness for owls too :)

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  3. Bardzo ładna sowa zdjęcie wygląda realnie.

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    1. Dziękuję za bardzo miły komentarz :) Bardzo doceniam!

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  4. Incredibly mysterious birds. Interesting information and photos.

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    1. Thank you so much, owls are amazing birds :)

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  5. Wonderful to read.
    Love your photos of the owl, it's a beauty.
    Take care.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed Margaret, and thank you :) You take care also.

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  6. what a great entry...i really enjoyed reading all of the information about this owl, it is fascinating! i really agree with your last paragraph...it is wonderful that these conservatories exist!!

    your pictures are awesome!!

    on a "my life" note...i don't know if your read about the fire the hubs and i suffered at our business park. so emotional, so completely overwhelming...i did share the information in a blog post a few days ago!!

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    1. Oh my gosh Debbie, I just came back from reading about your fire. I am so very sorry my dear friend! Thank you for letting me know, sending prayers and hugs!

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  7. Wow, these are awesome owl photos. They are beautiful birds, I love their eyes. Great post, info and photos. Well done! Take care, enjoy your day!
    Wishing you a happy weekend!

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    1. Thank you Eileen, those eyes are really something aren't they? Happy day and weekend also :)

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  8. I love owls and these are beautiful photos. Well done. Stay safe, Diane

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    1. Thank you Diane, I appreciate that. You stay safe also :)

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  9. I love owls and you may have seen it on my post not a couple of months ago about finding our dead screech owl floating in the barrel because somebody had poisoned a rat. Your photos are Exquisite an absolutely gorgeous! I had no idea of any of this information about them about how strong they are about their ears and how they find a prey. They are amazing! Love love love love love this post

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    1. Thank you Sandra, always happy when you enjoy my post. I must have missed your screech owl story. I will pay attention when I visit again.

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  10. How amazing, Denise! Thank you for the wonderful information on these majestic birds. I haven't seen an owl in ages. Maybe it's because our area is loaded with songbirds that make them unwelcome as you informed us! Very interesting. Have a lovely weekend. Love your darling signature owl, my friend.

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    1. You are very welcome Martha Ellen and thank you. I don't get to see them at all around here but very excited to find a hawk in our back garden yesterday evening. So glad you enjoyed my signature also. Happy weekend to you too my friend :)

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  11. Wonderful!!!!

    Fascinating!!!!!

    Love owls!

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What a wonderful event to be able to attend.

    'Miss BB'🐝🐝
    "Beside a babbling brook" blog

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    1. Thank you BB, and you are very welcome. So happy you enjoyed my lovely pal the owl :)

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  12. Very interesting, thanks for sharing! Love the photos.

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  13. Fascinating creatures and berries! Appreciate this thank you

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    1. You are very welcome Cloudia, happy you enjoyed :)

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  14. What a beautiful creature and such exceptional photos. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Ellen you are very welcome and thank you :)

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  15. Interesting read and wonderful pictures. Owls have such fascinating faces and eyes. I never knew they--or any animal or bird for that matter--could hear something ten miles away. That is incredible.

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    1. Thank you GGG and I agree, they certainly are amazing birds :)

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