The Great Horned Owl – Fighter or Lover?

By Dave Hanks

It’s mesmerizing to fall asleep, or awaken, to a soft hooting in the early evening, or in the wee morning hours. Such is a common occurrence at our house. These love calls begin in late fall and result in the laying of four eggs in late winter. Incubation is started at once and results in separate hatching times for each egg. This situation is known as a “stairstep” family and whether all, or part, of the young are raised depends on the food supply. The biggest baby is always fed first and it will survive even if the others don’t. When the young fledge, they are ˝ again larger than the adults. This allows for an adjustment period when they are learning to fend for themselves.

The GREAT HORNED OWL is not only “tender” with its own but is very formidable with others. They can take prey as large as a skunk and I have seen young cats (in our yard) that have been torn in half. A smack on your head with their talons could be very injurious.

They are identified by size (22”), a white throat, and ear-like feather projections. They are quite adaptable and wide spread across North America and are important rodent controllers. Mice and voles make up the lion’s share of their diet. Other bird species will often “mob” them during daylight hours. Our yard and lower tree plots are to their liking and we get to witness the raising and fledging of young each year.