I heard a Great Horned Owl calling ‘hoo-hoo hoooo hoo-hoo’ from a neighbors tree a few nights ago reminding me that January and February are some of the best times of the year to hear their very deep territorial calls. Though these owls may call at other times of the year, they engage in the most frequent calling during these months as it is nesting season in all but extreme southern portions of their range. This species of owl is found throughout the United States and Canada plus into much of Mexico, Central America and even parts of South America.
The owl in my two photos is the same owl just taken from a different vantage point so they show much of their characteristics. Those two feathery tufts on top of their head, though the reason they are called ‘Great Horned’, are not horns or even ‘ear tufts’–they are only tufts of feathers which are thought to help camouflage them.
The video below provides a lot of interesting information about Great Horned Owls as well as amazing close-ups of one that came from a rehabilitation center (these are great places to see raptors up close and the small admission fees help support their efforts).
You can purchase a poster or special edition print from Birds and Blooms Magazine. You can enjoy more photos and interesting information on this species in blogs earlier this year right on Birds and Blooms Magazine’s blog site. A cool photo of a Great Horned Owl was featured in a Birds and Blooms Magazine blog by Lorie last fall and Noelle blogged about this species nesting in cactus last winter.
The best way to see a wild Great Horned Owl is to hear one hooting. They will often hoot from the vicinity of a chosen or potential nest site which in many locations is in a tree or a cliff ledge, sometimes deserted buildings or from artificial nest platforms. They often use nests built previously by other species such as hawks. They are most active at dawn and dusk (from about an hour after sunset to a shorter time in the early morning before sunrise) when they are hunting for food and can sometimes be spotted on a utility pole or flying after prey. As their voices carry a long distance when there are fewer other noises, go to a location that is quiet and listen.
Have you seen or heard a Great Horned Owl? Please share your experiences below.