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The Great Horned Owl, the Tiger of the Air

Updated on May 10, 2014
Great Horned Owl with her Owlet
Great Horned Owl with her Owlet | Source

The great horned is the most widespread in North Americaand is most likely the most powerful, as well. They commonly attack animals larger than themselves, including porcupines, skunk, and domestic cats. This is another reason to keep your cats in the house, for it is the law of nature. Cats attack songbirds, and owls pay the cats back, so carefully think about the importance of both aspects of the cycle of life. Again, this bird is one of the most aggressive and efficient predators.

This owl is surpassed in size only by the north Canadian Great Grey Owl. The female is larger and heavier than the male, weighing up to 3 pounds with a four-foot wingspan. She will not be cute and play with you if she is protecting her young, so be forewarned if you spot a young one on the ground. She is watching it from somewhere. Unless you are absolutely certain that she is not feeding that little one, still be cautious, or contact Fish and Wildlife or a licensed rehabilitator if you think that the animal has been abandoned.

Great Horned Owlet
Great Horned Owlet | Source

The great horned received its name from those conspicuous “horns” on both sides of the top of the head. They have nothing to do with hearing, they are only feathers. The ears are located on the sides of the head, and are completely hidden. They hear higher tones, like the squeak of a mouse, but not the drumming of a woodpecker or a grouse. Chiefly nocturnal, they become active at dusk. There are exceptions to every rule, as they will also sometimes hunt during the day, especially if they have young.

The large yellow eyes are set in front of the head, giving it binocular vision. The eyes appear larger than what they really are, due to the flattened and feathered facial disks around them. If there is something on either side of their eyes, they must turn the head in order to see it. If the object moves behind the bird, the bird cannot rotate its head completely around, which is a common misnomer. They have a 270 degree rotation on either side, and move quickly, which is the common error on most people’s parts.

Mother Great Horned Owl
Mother Great Horned Owl | Source

The Great Horned Owl can live in the extreme cold and has soft, dense feathers right down to the talons. They are monogamous and one of the earliest nesting species, laying their eggs in the winter, the end of February to early March. A clutch is between two and four eggs, but it is rare to see more than two owlets to a nest. Unlike most birds, incubation begins when the first egg is laid, so if the eggs are laid a week apart, the young will hatch about a week apart. The female does most of the incubation, but her partner will help out occasionally. The male will feed the female and the young, and it has been known that he is so zealous about this duty, that he brings more food than can be eaten by all of them. As much as 18 pounds of food has been found in a nest!

These owls will not migrate, unless it comes down to the lack of food, then they will do so. Any decline in the population of voles, rabbits, and lemmings will force these birds to migrate, not the cold.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl | Source

Man is the Great Horned Owl’s chief enemy, not the hunter. These are the people who set pole traps for hawks and owls. In many states, the use of these types of traps is illegal, as they are so indiscriminate. They will maim or kill any bird that lands on them.

The crow is likely the owl’s main natural enemy, as they like the eggs and the young ones, if left unattended. Raccoons will also do the same, but that is relatively rare.

Owls will sometimes use artificial nesting platforms and prefer conifers for nesting, as they provide excellent cover. For additional information on re-nesting fallen baby owls, read my other hub: http://aviannovice.hubpages.com/hub/Baby-Raptor-Renesting-with-Owlets

Two Great Horned Owlets
Two Great Horned Owlets | Source
Great Horned Owl Female
Great Horned Owl Female | Source
Great Horned Owlets in Victoria, TX at Johnson Park
Great Horned Owlets in Victoria, TX at Johnson Park | Source

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That makes it MUCH easier, Adel.

    • profile image

      Adel 2 years ago

      are following a lesosn that I found at Deep Space Sparkle called Line Drawing Art Lessons: Name Designs. Today we drew and colored the block letters. Luckily for Ava her name has just two easy letters to

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Angelo, the only time they'll go into the cities is if they can nest in pine trees. They will never adapt like falcons or hawks, and nest on buildings. They enjoy cover too much, which is why they want to be within pine trees.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Beautiful predator. It's too bad that people go around catching/killing them. They should try to make things easier for the Horned Owl, even inviting it into the cities so it can eat the rats. Great article. Shared.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      They are both beautiful as they are dangerous when it comes to the owlets. Great to see you, unknown spy.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      I enjoyed reading about this interesting great horned owl..never seen one before :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Horray for your sister. I miss doing rehab work, and have done a great deal with raptors, include Preparation H on their feet for bumble foot. The Barred Owl is a wonderful creature. When I was in ME, I called to one, who returned to where I was at the time. A friend got his return in pictures, and how he looked me in the eye. Those are the things that make me smile.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Another great article. I really enjoyed reading about the Great Horned Owls. I believe what we hear around here is the Eastern Barred Owl. It starts 'boo hoo hoo hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoooo-ing' around May, or whenever the nights are clear and the days are warm. We live in the woods in upstate New York along with hawks, crows, ravens, turkey vultures, etc. My sister is a raptor rehabilitator in California. A couple of her young owls were never able to be released because of the extent of their injuries. So she built a shed for them where they have been living for many years now. She feeds them live mice. I call that dedication! Voted Up and Awesome!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Actually, the photos were all from the ground. Thanks for the great compliments!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Helen, glad that you liked it. It was easy to write, too.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Wonderful Hub. I love owls and your Hub was filled with great info on the Great Horned owl. I'm sure getting the photos was not easy, great job. Voting up....

    • profile image

      oceansider 4 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your hub about the great horned owl. Thank you for all of the interesting information about this bird, and the photos are beautiful too!

      Helen

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Tghe Northern Spotted Owl is STILL having its problems, xstatic. All birds are, when it comes to losing habitat. Remember the movie, "Hoot"? It showed how kids got together to protect the burrowing owl.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, grace, these are my photos. Thanks for the great compliment.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, shiningirisheyes. Animals can teach people a lot about the ways of simple living. It is not easy for them, but they manage, even without standard medical care.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're welcome, AnimalWrites. I do so enjoy writing about and photographing nature in all forms.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I have fun with all my birds, and manage to get some fairly decent pics for the most part, Cindy. When I lived in ME, there were lots of good birds, including plenty of owls. They are one of my favorites.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Nell! Black birds in general are interested in eggs and go after them quite a bit. I have worked with a number of different owls, and they are all, literally, a hoot!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Your hubs are always so interesting. I am fascinated by owls and raptors in general. Owls are seldom seen, but present I know. I got to watch some Burrowing Owls a few times when I lived in California. Owls are always in the news here in Oregon, the endangered Northern Spotted Owl stops logging sites and is being crowded out by the (formerly eastern US) Barred Owl moving in for some reason.

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 4 years ago

      Owls are so amazing. These are your personal photos? They are really excellent, thank you for posting them.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      The great horned owl is awesome! I was glad to learn their mates help out with the young as well. Too bad people don't learn a lesson from them

      Interesting hub.

    • AnimalWrites profile image

      AnimalWrites 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      These are beautiful owls Aviannovice, so thank you for sharing the information and posting such great pictures

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Beautiful hub. I love learning about owls - they are mysterious creatures. In Native Amercian lore, if you hear an owl hooting right outside of your window, you must be alert for danger.

      I enjoyed the read. Thanks for sharing this. I can't believe you took all those fabulous pictures! Bravo.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Such a lovely bird, and your information was so interesting, I wouldn't have thought of the crow being their enemy if you like, stealing the eggs. I have seen a few owls but I usually get to hear them at night, especially if I leave my window open, and the screech owl really makes a noise! lol! really interesting, cheers nell

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Joyce. It is always fun out there at Boomer Lake.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      You have taken wonderful photo's of the beautiful Owlets and of course as always great information.

      Voted up awesome and interesting, Joyce.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, Pollyannalana, you still remember this, so it definitely affected you. Hopefully, this was the last animals that your brother harmed. Thanks for stopping by and your comment.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Lisa. I used to do quite a bit of rehab work as a volunteer with the raptors. I worked with several Great Horned Owls, as well as other owls.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 4 years ago from US

      I remember as a teenager one of my 4 younger brothers killed an owl that was hanging in the woods near our house and I don't know why they did it but I can tell you I can remember to this day how upset my parents got! Usually it was one parent or the other to let you have it when you done something wrong but this time they both had a fit I am sure that brother never forgot.

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      I love owls and this hub. The owl is so spiritual and filled with mysteries. Great information on the great horned owl! Thumbs up! Lisa

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