Thursday, January 19, 2017

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is the most powerful and largest of the North American owls.  Its wingspan is 4-5’ from tip to tip with the females being larger than the males.  It is named after the feather tufts resembling horns on its head which are often mistaken for ears.  Its real ears are covered by special feathers located behind the facial dish feathers.  These allow it to hear the slightest sound up to 900 feet away.  A fierce predator, it has the most diverse diet of all the owls.  This ranges from large raptors including other horned owls, to insects.  It is one of the few animals that will eat skunks.  It mainly hunts by watching and waiting on a perch.  When its prey passes, it will quietly swoop down, extend its 4X8” talons and apply a grip onto its victim that can range up to 28 pounds.  This usually severs its spine.  They start nesting in January by lining an abandoned nest with feathers.  Usually the female incubates the 1 – 4 eggs for 30 – 37 days while her mate brings her food.  Six weeks after hatching, the owlets will explore the nest area and by 9 weeks they can fly.  Their parents will continue to feed and care for the fledglings for months, often as late as October.  Great Horned owls take life-long mates and together vigorously defend their territories especially in the winter and fall when the young are most vulnerable.  They are considered nocturnal with most of their activity being at dusk and just before dawn.  However when food is short, especially in the winter, they will continue to hunt during the daylight hours.  Known to live up to 28 years, this bird is the symbol of wisdom and good luck to all that see it. (Photo:  NH Fish & Game)

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