Welcome to Week #19 of the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge. Week #19 challenge is all about the Owls.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s owls. I do not have any great photos of owls so I will just give you what I have. Owls are nocturnal meaning they are mostly active at night. There are two species that are truly diurnal (meaning they are active both day and night). They are the Northern Hawk Owl and the Northern Pygmy Owl.
Upcoming challenges can be found on my Bird Weekly Challenge Page.
The feature image is a photo of a Barred Owl.
Great Horned Owls vary in color depending on what area they are located. They are native to North America and breed throughout the United States, parts of Canada and parts of Mexico. They are considered THE “hoot owl”. Their primary diet is rabbits and hares, rats and mice and voles. However, the Great Horned Owl will hunt just about anything including rodents, small mammals, larger sized mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. They are not picky eaters and will feed their young whatever gets near their habitat. This owl is often compared to the Eurasian eagle-owl. They are large in size at 22″ (55.88 cm) tall.
The Great Horned Owl is one of the earliest nesting birds in North America, often laying eggs weeks or even months before other raptorial birds. Mated pairs are monogamous and they are never far from the nest of eggs or hatched chicks. Most of the time, you will see only one parent with the chicks, but the other is close by roosting on another branch in the same or nearby tree. Both members of a mated pair may stay within the same territory during non-breeding season, but they roost separately. It is hard to tell the male and female apart unless they are together. She is larger in size than he is, but his voice is larger and deeper.
Did you know that when clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s talons require a force of 28 pounds (12.7 kg) to open? The better to sever the spine of large prey.
The Barred Owl is a resident of the eastern to central part of the United States and has extended its habitat into the Pacific northwest, parts of Canada and Mexico. The Barred Owl is quite stealthy in the air. This owl can go undetected in the dense woods. This guy was watching us walk down the path and I just happened to look up in the tree and spotted him or her.
The Great Horned Owl is the largest threat to the Barred Owl competing for similar territory. A Barred Owl will move to another part of its territory if a Great Horned Owl moves in nearby. Sometimes they can be seen in the daytime like our photo above, but they are most active at night. The sound byte below was taken by me in our backyard in February of this year. There were 10 Barred Owls flying from our backyard to our neighbors tree across the street from the front of our house. It was about 11:00 pm and we could hear them over the television. Frank & I ran outside and was in awe of the movement and sound.
Take a listen and turn up your volume. There will be silence midway through for a few seconds. This went on for about 10 minutes.
I featured this photo in the Rare Birds week and am sharing it again today. The Snowy Owl has a regal presence that could have a non-birder come take a look, but for us die hard bird lovers, this is the crown jewel. Juvenile male Snowy Owls are barred with dark brown and get whiter when they get older. Females keep some of their dark markings for their entire life, like the one above. The Snowy Owl breeds in the high arctic. Some will stay year-round on the breeding grounds, but many will migrate southward into Canada and the northern United States during the winter months. This one migrated all the way to Jacksonville, FL for a few weeks, making it a very rare sighting.
The female chooses and builds her nest on a raised site so she can see in every direction while the male defends the territory like a sentry. The nest is a simple depression in the tundra with no lining. A nesting site may be used for several years. The pair can have 3-11 eggs and incubation is 31-33 days. Like many predators, the eggs hatch in intervals so the female can begin feeding one at a time as she incubates the rest. The young may leave the nest after 2-3 weeks but are unable to fly until they are 7 weeks old. The parents will feed them up to 9-10 weeks.
The Long-eared Owl can be seen in every state in the lower 48 states except Florida. It’s range expands into Mexico and up into Canada as well. They roost in dense foliage and camouflage themselves remarkably well. This Long-eared Owl was spotted at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. The park ranger came out onto the trail and pointed out where this guy was hanging out. This was a life bird for us and would have easily missed it. The lens is fully zoomed in and the photo cropped from our original location and the best we could get. Just seeing this bird was like taking a kid to a candy store.
Interesting fact: The hoot of the male can sometimes be heard up to .7 miles (1 kilometer) away. This would make it quite difficult to find this bird if going by the call.
5 years ago when we didn’t have to social distance or worry about being with our friends, I made a batch of Almond Shortbread Owl Cookies for Bunco. I was introduced to Bunco by my neighbor and eventually started hosting once or twice a year. This was around Christmas time and they made the perfect snack for everyone to take home. They are tasty too! I found it on Pintrest back in the day, but I found the original blog by Heather Baird from which I used the recipe and instructions. Check it out here!
Until next week…Week #19 – Birds in your Yard or Garden