The great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is a successful hunter. Early naturalists called these owls “winged tigers” because of their ferocity. While rare, a great horned owl can occasionally catch and kill even a peregrine falcon! When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey.
To aid them in their hunt they have large eyes and large pupils that open wide for excellent night vision, paired with excellent hearing.
Distributed throughout vast portions of North and South America, the great horned owl is famous for its hoot. This is the owl most children are first exposed to in story tales.
They hunt at night, drifting silently looking for insects, reptiles and other birds.
There are roughly 225 living owl species, and of those about 50 have ear tufts – including the great horned owl. Though the tufts on their heads resemble ears, and are indeed often called “ear tufts,” they are really just tufts of feathers. An owl’s ears are located lower down on its head, on the margin of the facial disk. Great horned owls use these tufts of feathers when they are agitated by a potential intruder or when they want to carry out threat displays. Some researchers think the tufts are helpful in species recognition.
Without birds like the great horned owls, the food chain would be unbalanced. Also some animals would become over populated. Owls are important to farmers because they kill/eat rodents that kill the farmers crops.
Next week, I’ll talk more about owls and how they are referenced in both ancient and modern culture.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Avian Beauty. Thanks for listening.
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Scott Bourne is an Olympus Visionary, a professional bird/wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He is a pioneer in digital photography and was named one of the “30 most influential photographers on the Web” by Huffington Post. His photographic experience spans four decades and his bird/wildlife images have been published in more than 200 magazines and periodicals. He is also a Signed Master at Studio of Masters in China.
Scott has been a founder, co-founder, advisor or early stage investor in several technology companies such as NetRadio, Photofocus, and ViewBug.