Hey guys, welcome back! Today, the owl that most people probably picture when they picture an owl, and the only owl species I’ve seen in all three states I’ve lived in (NY, MO, OH.) The great horned owl. The great horned owl is a large owl, slightly larger than the red-tailed hawk. They are quite adaptable; being found in virtually every type of habitat from tropic rainforest to tundra, and are found throughout North, Central, and South America. Though widespread, they aren’t super common. Like many owls, the great horned is nocturnal, which makes locating one during the day a challenge. The owl pictured above is one of the nesting pair from St. Louis’ Forest Park. The pair is well documented and have been residents of the park for over 15 years. The male has had, if memory serves, three female mates to date.
The first great horned I saw showed up in Central Park in 2015 and hung around in the Ramble for a couple weeks. One typically shows up in the park every year or so. One good way to find a great horned owl during the day is to listen for the sound of a bunch of crows. Crows will gang up and mob a great horned owl, as the owl is one of the only real threats a crow faces. In a true case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” occasionally red-shouldered hawks will join crows in mobbing the owl. In fact, this is how I located my most recent great horned sighting. It was at a nearby park a few weeks ago and there were 6 crows (soon joined by 4 blue jays) mobbing a great horned owl. Wasn’t able to get too close or get good pictures, but it was still cool. Kinda felt bad for the owl, but that’s nature.
Great horned owls vary in color based on geographical region. Western birds are typically paler in color than eastern birds which sport an orangish facial disk. The great horns on the owl’s head are simply feather tufts. These tufts are used mostly for display, as well to aid in camouflage. The great horned owl is one of the top predators of the forest, sometimes taking down much larger prey as well as other raptors, like osprey. They are awesome birds! Next up is a duck whose name doesn’t seem to make sense…at first. See you then!