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Great Horned Owl

Bubo Virginianus

We were lucky enough to encounter two adults calling back and forth in a forest in North Carolina just recently.

These owls are the largest owl species to reside in North Carolina.

According the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, NC Great Horned Owls sport a plumage that is heavily streaked and generally dark reddish brown.

We always try to capture owl calls whenever we hear them during our travels, but typically our dog's ferocious barking will quiet them until we've gone back to bed. In this case however, these owls persisted for at least an hour and a half just after dusk. We listened as one of the owls gradually flew closer to the other, and a third even chimed in toward the end. Apparently this time of year is prime time for catching an earful of these beautiful calls here in NC.

"Most calling occurs when courtship begins in October, with peak calling in November and December, often at dusk and after dark. Calls slow a bit after eggs are in the nest and even more after young have hatched."

According to the NC Wildlife Profile on the Great Horned Owls, they are monogamous creatures. They typically choose an old hawk nest as their home to lay 2 eggs. Before breeding, the owls enjoy a marathon of hooting and visual displays between the two. The females are much larger than the males, getting up to 22 inches in height. Both sexes have stunning yellow eyes and tall ears that give them the "horned" look.

I'm always hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these beauties in the daylight but as you can imagine they're masters of camouflage and are even especially sneaky due to their stealthy feather design:

"Horned owls have an especially keen auditory sense, and the unique construction of owl feathers also enables owls to fly with virtually no sound. This advantage permits owls to approach sharp-eared prey such as rodents and birds, and even small owl species, undetected."


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