What did we Find Perched in the Pines?

An uncommon bird call peaked our interest this morning, followed by a lucky and extremely rare sighting! 🦉


We started our day today before the sun was up. A thick fog covered the campground as a soft gray glow of light spread across the horizon. With no electricity hookups, we've had all the windows open, and before the mid-day sun the temperature is nice and cool. As we listened to crows, warblers, and woodpeckers, we were lucky enough to catch a faint hoot in the distance too!

Need a reminder of what these gorgeous owls sound like? Click the button above to watch our video from when we discovered two owls calling to each other in NC!


Mabel and I acted fast (but quietly) and hit the pine forest to try to spot the Great Horned Owl who had been serenading us. Using our ears as guides we finally found the source, and guess what? It was a pair!


Pairs are monogamous, breeding once a year and defending their territory with loud calls, especially after breeding season. According to my research Great Horned Owls lay their eggs around January/February in Southern Florida. Because the female is not perched on a nest, our best guess is that this mated pair is waiting for the female to lay her eggs, although Cornell's Ornithology Lab suggests, "it is normal for parents to leave the eggs and nestlings exposed now and then." Plumage coloring varies across region, but among sexes is very similar. The way to tell the difference between sexes is that female owls are larger in stature, and the males hoot in a louder, deeper pitch.


Interested in taking a closer look at our discovery of these beautiful owls this morning? Watch our video here!


Fun Facts:

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  • The oldest Great Horned on record was at least 28 years old when it was found in Ohio in 2005

  • They only weigh up to 5 lbs, but their grip strength is typically 200-500 PSI (while humans rarely exceed 100 PSI)

  • Their ears are actually not visible! The tufts or "horns" of the GHO are not ears but actually just plumes to help camouflage these large owls' silhouettes

  • They lack a good sense of smell, enabling them to hunt skunks unlike most other animals

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  • Their eyes are usually a yellowish color with visible pupils, enabling them to hunt during the day (unlike most owls which have large dark eyes made for only nocturnal hunting)

  • GHOs are nocturnal, though in winter or when food is scarce, they may hunt during daylight hours

  • Their geographical range is extremely wide, from Sub-Arctic Canada all the way down to the Southern tip of South America

 

Hoping to get some more photos in better lighting now what we know where they reside but here is a gallery of what we captured today:


 

Sources:


Just the Zoo of Us (Podcast) Episode 108: Great Horned Owl w/ Ashley Bray


The Cornell Lab - Bird Cams FAQ: Great Horned Owl Nest


The Cornell Lab - Great Horned Owl: Identification


The Cornell Lab - Great Horned Owl: Life History



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