The Great Horned Owl

Wetlands Park Friends

Check out the intense, golden-eyed stare of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)! Great Horned Owls are fierce nocturnal hunters of a wide variety of prey. Some, like raccoons and skunks, may be two to three times the size of the owl. Also on the menu are rabbits, squirrels, snakes, ospreys, other owls and hawks, and even scorpions and insects.

Great Horned Owls often employ a strategy called “still hunting” from high perches. The owl watches and listens for prey below, then plunges silently to the ground to attack with its talons, which have 300 pounds per square inch of crushing pressure.

It is amazing to see an owl with a three to five foot wingspan pass overhead in absolute silence. I was once startled when one swooped low over my left shoulder just at twilight. No sound at all – just a sudden shadow overhead,  sailing off and upward. 

The silent flight of owls is made possible by serrations on the leading and trailing edges of the wings that deaden sound. – Chris Leavitt, President; photo courtesy of Philip Martini