Recently while visiting my daughter in Massachusetts, I heard the hooting of an owl breaking the silence of the night inside the house. Out on the deck, his call could be heard much more clearly. Her house abuts a large wetland filled with tall pines and maples. I looked up owl calls on the internet and identified the call as coming from a Great Horned Owl. Listen to several different owl calls at this link. owl calls
Great Horned Owls are plentiful in New England. They are known to eat around 250 different species of mammals , fish and reptiles. Lizards, frogs, fish and salamanders are wetland prey the owl I heard was probably seeking. Raccoons, squirrels and rodents are not safe from Great Horned Owls during their nocturnal hunts either. Other foods sources are large insects, crayfish, scorpions, centipedes, worms, spiders, and road killed animals. The Great Horned Owl will regurgitate pellets of indigestible parts of animal six to ten hours after eating. Naturalists and scientists look for the pellets to dissect giving them clues to the owls’ diet. I remember doing just that in an elementary school science class many years ago, and sparked my curiosity of owls.
The most recognizable feature of the Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, is the tufts of feathers looking like horns or ears, called plumicorns. They are neither ears nor horns just longer feathers. The name plumicorn comes from the Latin pluma meaning feather and cornu meaning horn. The Great Horned Owl is a large bird 18 to 24 inches tall and can weigh over 5 pounds. They nest in hollow trees and cliffs or the abandoned nests of other large birds, preferring not to make their own. Mating season for an owl couple is January and February annually. The female will two or three eggs that will hatch in about four weeks. Both the mother and father will sit on the eggs and feed the owlets. Baby owls will venture out of the nest by hopping between one and two months old. They learn to fly around 10 weeks old. There is only one generation each year.