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SKEPTOID BLOG:

My Fascinating Backyard: The Great Horned Owl

by Dani Johnson

August 5, 2013

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Above Image: Plate 61 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting Great Horned Owl (1827-1838). Image Credit: John James Audubon (1785—1851). Source: University of Pittsburgh via Wikimedia Commons ; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

The Great Horned Owl is sometimes referred to as a Winged Tiger because of their fierce hunting style and the barred markings on their breast. They are very large birds that can be found throughout North and Central America and even in parts of South America. They have adapted to many climates and regions and can be found in many places such as dense forests, deserts, plains and even in city parks. These owls can weigh up to 3 pounds and grow up to 2 feet long with a wingspan of up to 5 feet long. Prominent features include the "ear" tufts and striped markings along the underside of the wings, the tail and on the breast.The Great Horned Owl doesn't really have any predators due to it's large size, ferocity and ability to fly, but it can be killed in confrontations by other large birds. These large birds will eat just about anything, including other owls, and birds such as woodpeckers, turkeys, red-tailed hawks and great blue herons. The owls love mammals such as rabbits, rats, squirrels, armadillos, muskrats, weasels and even porcupines, marmots and skunks. They will also eat reptiles such as turtles, snakes, lizards and even young alligators. In the wild, these owls can live up to 13 years, but in captivity their lives can be stretched as far as 38 years.

The calls that these owls use to communicate include many different variations, but the most common call sounds like "hoo-hoo hooooo hoo-hoo". The calls can usually be heard from around dusk till midnight and they usually start up again around dawn. The YouTube video below is a short clip of the most common call.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwEi6TMrOWc

The Great Horned owl is a solitary hunter except during January and February when it is nesting season. The Great Horned owl definitely knows its place on the food chain because they don't actually build their own nests, they'd much rather steal one from another bird or animal. They also don't take crap from any pesky neighbor, either, they are extremely aggressive to intruders even if it's accidental, they will attack to kill if the intruder doesn't flee immediately. The female usually lays 4 eggs that need to be incubated for 26-35 days. The young owlets will roam around the nest and surrounding branches once they are about 6 weeks old, but they won't be good flyers until they are at least 9 weeks old. Once they fly pretty well the parents start to ween them, which doesn't take more than a few weeks.

The families will remain loosely associated with one another until the end of the summer when it is time for the young owls to leave the territory they were raised in to find their own place. The young owls will travel up to 250 kilometers, and once they find a mate they will both rule a kingdom of about 2.5 square kilometers. The Great Horned Owls don't actually live together for most of the year, but they share dominion over their territory and have been known to remain entangled for up to 8 years with the same mate.

Did You Know?


  • Most owls are nocturnal, which is good because it helps them avoid confrontation with other large birds that hunt primarily during the day.

  • Owls eyes cannot move inside the socket like ours can, they can only look straight forward. This is why the owl can rotate its head 270 degrees around the center axis, and it also provides the structure for the owl to have excellent binocular vision.

  • The "ear" tuft on the heads of some owls aren't actually their ears at all. The ears are located on either side of the head and are sometimes even formed asymmetrically to assist in pinpointing sound.

Image Gallery:




Above Image: Great Horned Owl juvenile at the North Beach area of Fort Desoto, Florida (2010). Image Credit: Andrea Westmoreland Source: Flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-AlikeLicense.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl, Domaine Maizerets, Quebec City, Canada (2012). Image Credit: Cephas Source: Wikimedia Commons; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-AlikeLicense.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl eyeing the photographers (2009). Image Credit: Steve Voght. Source: Flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



Above Image: A profile shot of a male Great Horned Owl taken near Dawsonville, Georgia. (2009). Image Credit: Sam Whited. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl (2008). Image Credit: Al-HikesAZ. Source: Flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl in Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (2013). Image Credit: TJfromAZ. Source: Flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl (2011). Image Credit: Tony Hisgett. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-AlikeLicense.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl adult with chicks in a nest in the front window of a Presbyterian church in Green Valley, Arizona, USA. (2008). Image Credit: Ken Bosma. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl From The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds (2010). Image Credit: Richard Crossley. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



Above Image: Great Horned Owl and Owlets (2011). Image Credit: Steve Corey. Source: Flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

Sources:


http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Bubo&species=virginianus
http://naturalhistory.uga.edu/~GMNH/gawildlife/index.php?page=speciespages/species_page&key=bvirginianus
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Horned_Owl/id
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwEi6TMrOWc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MJiRy14kKg
http://animals.about.com/od/owls/a/owl-facts.htmhttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:61_Great_Horned_Owl.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Owlet_at_North_Beach,_Fort_Desoto.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubo_virginianus_DM.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubo_virginianus_-Reifel_Migratory_Bird_Sanctuary-8b.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubo_virginianus_-adult_and_chicks_-Arizona-8.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BuboVirginianusProfile.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecorey/5623067868/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecorey/6196313975/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanenglish/2309387824/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightcraft/8413167968/
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Horned_Owl_From_The_Crossley_ID_Guide_Eastern_Birds.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Horned_Owl_3a_(6019754270).jpg
http://www.public-domain-image.com/fauna-animals-public-domain-images-pictures/birds-public-domain-images-pictures/owl-birds-pictures/a-baby-owl-is-perched-as-if-ready-to-take-off-and-fly.jpg.html

by Dani Johnson

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