Photographer David Hauer, like a good detective, followed up on the unidentified owl he saw a week ago, published here on December 7 under the title “Late Owl.” He had to go into the Berkeley Meadow to find it, but he succeeded. He speculates that the owl read that post, or heard about it, and was insulted to be possibly mistaken for a Long-Eared Owl, and so it showed him its full front long enough for him to get closer and take several shots. Even though the light was still very dim — that’s what nocturnal owls prefer — his images make it clear that this is a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), and no other.
The Cornell Bird Lab website has these Cool Facts about Great Horned Owls:
Great Horned Owls are fierce predators that can take large prey, including raptors such as Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and other owls. They also eat much smaller items such as rodents, frogs, and scorpions.
When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey.
If you hear an agitated group of cawing American Crows, they may be mobbing a Great Horned Owl. Crows may gather from near and far and harass the owl for hours. The crows have good reason, because the Great Horned Owl is their most dangerous predator.
Even though the female Great Horned Owl is larger than her mate, the male has a larger voice box and a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.
Great Horned Owls are covered in extremely soft feathers that insulate them against the cold winter weather and help them fly very quietly in pursuit of prey. Their short, wide wings allow them to maneuver among the trees of the forest.
Great Horned Owls have large eyes, pupils that open widely in the dark, and retinas containing many rod cells for excellent night vision. Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction. They also have sensitive hearing, thanks in part to facial disc feathers that direct sound waves to their ears.
The oldest Great Horned Owl on record was at least 28 years old when it was found in Ohio in 2005.
The next day, David also succeeded in seeing the Burrowing Owl on the north side of the park. He reports that it has moved closer to the paved path and is now easier to spot. Here’s one of his photos: