Great Horned Owl—photos and links

Most of us will know Great Horned Owls by voice—that distinctive “Who’s awake?  Me too!” rhythm heard in the dark of evening or the pre-dawn light of morning.  You can hear a sample a pair of Great Horneds calling to each other (called “duetting”) here.  (Scroll down a bit to the “typical voice” section.)  Generally, the female’s call has a slightly higher pitch than the male’s does, which you can hear on this clip.  You also hear a couple of odd squawking, screeching calls at the end of the clip.  Those are one of the numerous odd noises made by juveniles begging for food.  Even the adults can make odd noises; click here for just one example.  They can even hiss, believe it or not.  At times, it’s hard to believe that those noises could be emitted by a bird of any kind.

Great Horned Owls don’t construct their own nests, instead using a nest built by other birds, such as Osprey, Red-tailed Hawks, or Great Blue Herons.  Once she has laid eggs, she incubates them nearly 24 hours a day.  As a result, if you are really lucky, you might see a large stick nest that looks like a nest with ears—that’ll be a female Great Horned hunkered down on her nest.  You can get a sense of this in this photo of a Great Horned in a (former) Osprey nest.  Young owl nestlings are white fluffballs; as they grow, they retain this downy white plumage for quite some time while in the nest.  Click here for a photo of owlets in juvenal plumage.

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