Junior – Great Horned Owl
Junior came to us in a very unusual way. His mother laid an egg on a coal conveyor belt leading up from the river at an electricity power plant. This was the second year in a row that this had happened. We can only assume that it was the same female. The power plant staff gave us the egg and as we had done the previous year for his brother, Coal, we incubated the egg.
Junior has been a valued member for many years, and has entertained and educated people all over the country. He likes to shred things, prefers men, is a great “hooter,” and loves to hoot to his friend Carmelita who lives in one of the other mews.
Species: Great Horned Owl
Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Description: largest owl native to North America; adults have large ear tufts which are not actually ears, but large tufts of feathers; face is reddish, brown or gray with a white patch on the throat; iris is yellow; underparts are light with brown barring; upper parts are mottled brown; legs and feet are feathered up to the talons; owls have binocular vision and the ability to turn their heads a full 270 degrees; an owl’s hearing is as good as, if not better, than its vision; owls have stereo hearing which allows them to triangulate the location of prey
Sex: females larger than males
Age: 5-20 years in the wild once past the critical first year
Wingspan: up to 5′
Weight: 2.5 lbs.
Habitat: wide variety of wooded habitat; forests, swamps, deserts, rocky areas, farmland and urban areas from sea level to 12,000 feet
Status: listed as “Least Concern”
Range: throughout most of North and South America
Behavior: hunts at dusk and during the night from a perch, while flying low over the ground, walking on the ground, or wading into water; among the earliest-breeding birds in North America; territories are claimed in the fall, and breeding takes place in January or early February; nesting is done in other birds’ stick nests, natural tree hollows, man-made platforms, or on cliff ledges or cave entrances; female lays 1-3 eggs and incubates for 26-35 days; young birds start to wander away from the nest in 6-7 weeks at which point they are called “branchers”; they are fully flighted at 10-12 weeks; fledglings are tended by the parents for up to 5 months; maturity is reached at 2 years
Diet: wide variety of small to medium mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish insects, and occasionally carrion if other food is scarce; one of the few animals known to prey on skunks
Vocalization: low pitched, loud, monotone “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo;” females call is higher pitched
- Named for the tufts of feathers on its head that look like ears, but the ears are really further down on the side of its head
- Largest owl native to North America
- Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch
- Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction
- Sometimes known by the nickname “tiger owl”