Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the great horned owl.
Great horned owls, the most common owl in the Americas, are adapted to live in diverse habitats and are found from the tropics to the Arctic. A large owl, ranging in height from 1.5 to 2 feet, with a wingspan of 4 to 5 feet, they weigh only 4 pounds or less. The hornlike tufts of feathers on the tops of their heads are not ears or horns, but do make them identifiable in the low light of dawn and dusk when they are most likely to be seen.
Mottled gray coloring provides camouflage while they roost in trees during the day.
These owls rely on the excellent night vision provided by their large, yellow eyes, and their keen sense of hearing to make them successful nocturnal hunters. A body covering of extremely soft feathers affords them silent flight. They hunt a wide range of prey, from large birds to small rodents and nearly anything in between. Their poor sense of smell means that even skunks are on the menu.
Great horned owls have unusual nesting habits, laying eggs in the abandoned nests of other birds or squirrels in January or February. Although their young can leave the nest two months later, the parents continue to feed and care for them for several months.
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