It is time once again for our Sunday Hunt For Links post and this week I would like to feature one of the most fearsome predators from the bird family, the Great Horned Owl. This bird is so named because of two tufts of feathers sticking up from the top of it’s head, one on each side. Contrary to popular belief, those tufts have nothing to do with enhancing the bird’s hearing, but they do give it a very unique look. It is well known for it’s haunting call of “hoo-hoo hoooooo hoo-hoo” but the Great Horned Owl can also make a wide variety of other sounds, depending on it’s mood and activity. On occasion, it can give a cat-like meow, bark, coo, snap it’s beak, or give a shriek that will raise the hair on your head. The Great Horned Owl may be a silent predator, but it is by no means a silent bird.
If there is an animal that can stare you down, the Great Horned Owl would be the one to do it. It’s eyes are one of it’s more distinguishing features, almost as big as a human’s eyes and fixed in the bone sockets. Called binocular vision, this means they can not move their eyes up or down or side to side. Instead, they must turn their heads 270° to see around them. That doesn’t mean their eyes are good, as their vision is about 10 times better than a human’s in daylight and 100 times better at night. This is due to a very large amount of light passing through the pupil of the eye and allows the bird to be a very good night hunter.
In addition to it’s sight, the hearing of the Great Horned Owl sets it apart from other animals. When one of these birds is sitting on it’s perch, turning it’s head and watching for prey, it is also listening and I mean, really listening. It’s ears are on either side of it’s head, but they are tilted in slightly different angles, with the right ear usually being placed higher on the head than the left ear. It also has soft feathers surrounding each ear that are spread to make a funnel for sounds to enter the ear. All of this combines to allow the bird to triangulate the sound it is hearing by tilting it’s head until the volume is the same in both ears. This pinpoints the direction and distance of the sound. Make no mistake, the Great Horned Owl is a serious hunter and an amazing work of nature.
The Great Horned Owl is a large bird, usually standing 18-25″ tall, with a wingspan of 36-60″. It will weigh in at 3-4 pounds, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but belies the strength of this powerful bird. When it swoops down silently to catch it’s prey, it does so with talons that can apply as much as 200-300 pounds of pressure per square inch. Compare that to the strength of a human hand, which is around 60 pounds per square inch and you can get an idea of just how strong these birds are. It’s prey is usually killed instantly by the force of it’s talons and once captured, nothing is likely to escape. The Great Horned Owl can easily capture and kill prey as much as two-three times larger than itself.
Speaking of it’s prey, just what does a Great Horned Owl eat? It may be easier to list what it doesn’t eat. In other words, if it moves, one of these birds may try to eat it. It’s preferred meal is a rabbit or some other small mammal, such as mice, but it will eat snakes, reptiles, fish, or birds, including other owls. This bird is also able to kill and eat larger prey, such as porcupines, skunks, and cats. As you can see, it isn’t an extremely picky eater. It also has the unique habit of eating it’s prey in it’s entirety, although other birds may be plucked first. After the prey is digested, the birds stomach will form a pellet of the undigested remains and regurgitate it.
Let’s look at some other characteristics of the Great Horned Owl, first from Wikipedia.
Great Horned Owls are some of the earliest-breeding birds in North America. They breed in late January or early February and are often heard calling to each other in the fall, starting in October. They choose a mate by December and are often heard duetting before this time. For owls found in more tropical climates, the dates of the breeding season are somewhat undefined. They often take over a nest used by some other large bird, sometimes adding feathers to line the nest but usually not much more. Old crow and raven (Corvus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) or large squirrel nests are often favored in North America. However, they are far from dependent on the old nests of others and may use cavities in trees and snags, cliffs, deserted buildings, and artificial platforms.
There are usually 2 eggs per clutch, with a clutch ranging in size from 1 to 5 eggs (5 is very rare). The average egg width is 1.8 in (46.5 mm), the average length is 2.2 in (55.2 mm) and the average weight is 1.8 oz (51 g). The incubation period ranges from 30 to 37 days, averaging 33 days. Brooding is almost continuous until the offspring are about 2 weeks old, after which it decreases. Young owls move onto nearby branches at 6 weeks and start to fly about a week later. The offspring have still been seen begging for food in late October (5 months after leaving the nest) and most do not separate from their parents until right before they start to reproduce for the next clutch (usually December). Birds may not breed for another year or two, and are often vagrants (“floaters”) until they mate, establish their own territories, and settle down.
Now, from DesertUSA.
Males and females are similar in appearance, except the female is the larger of the two. The plumage of the great horned owl varies regionally, from pale to dark. In general, they have brown body plumage covered with darker brown spots and white throat feathers that contrast with the dark cross-barred underparts. The white feathers stand out like a collar against the darker underside feathers. Some great horned owls may be very pale underneath, but still the white collar stands out.
The great horned owls facial disk may have orangish or grayish feathers, and whiter feathers that form a V between the yellow eyes with black pupils. Their ear tufts are large and set far apart on the head. Just like a dog, great horned owls use these ear tufts to convey body language – when they are irritated the tufts lie flat and when they are inquisitive the ears stand upright.
All in all, I think we can all agree that the Great Horned Owl is another of God’s amazing creations. Now, to the hunt for links and as you probably know, several of them will have to do with the tragic shooting in Arizona last week.
4Walls and AView shares Dominique’s realization that a triple cord is not easily broken.
A Conservative Teacher explains why liberal teachers think he should be fired.
Always On Watch explains some of the damage done by the media in the aftermath of the shooting in Arizona.
American and Proud has a list of some of the things we have learned from the shooting in Arizona.
America’s Watchtower has what is probably one of the best posts on how the media tried to blame the actions of Jared Loughner on the Tea Party.
Better America Blog says the left is calling the right a nation of murders.
Bunkerville details why the federal government is suing the states over implementation of union laws.
Capitol Commentary says the final casualty of the Arizona shooting is the truth. Harrison also has a couple of posts that I didn’t get to share last week because I didn’t do a links post. First is The Thin Veneer of Society and the second is Entitlement Society. Both are very good reading.
Conservative Hideout has put together a massive post, detailing the many different resources that show exactly what the left tried to do in the aftermath of the Arizona shooting. This is a very important post to read and share.
Conservatives on Fire says the liberals reacted exactly as we should have suspected they would.
The Conservative Pup thinks the memorial service in Tuscon was an Obama campaign rally in disguise.
The Country Thinker wonders when political rhetoric goes too far.
Eastern Right thinks the gloves need to come off when it comes to dealing with the left.
Fleece Me has learned something about Islam from the Arizona shooting and the reaction by left afterwards.
The Lonely Conservative tells the story of Ronald Reagan Jr. diminishing the legacy of his father, President Ronald Reagan.
Maggie’s Notebook has the video and transcript of Sarah Palin’s response to the accusations that she is to blame for the shooting in Arizona.
The McCarville Report says when it comes to political rhetoric, silence really is golden.
Motor City Times thinks a bailout of the Post Office is coming.
OneMom has a great post about the funeral protests planned by the Westboro Baptist Church.
Paladin’s Page wonders if “We The People” still applies.
Questioning With Boldness has a few words concerning the memorial service/pep rally for the Tuscon shooting victims.
Reporter 37 says only the shooter is to blame for the tragedy in Tuscon.
Republican Redefined has the open letter from Michelle Obama to parents following the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona.
rjjrdq’s America II details how some Republicans are starting an “Ethno-pandering” campaign.
Robbing America says jobs will be created by policies that encourage economic growth, not by policies that create jobs.
Sentry Journal says America is bigger than a lone madman.
Spellchek doesn’t think the Republicans can really fix spending.
teresamerica wonders if the media is reverting back to the journalistic savagery of the 1800′s.
ToBeRight says the politics of the memorial service in Tuscon were shameful.
What Would The Founders Think wonders if it isn’t a good time to recall a sheriff in Arizona.
WyBlog has the idiotic story of gay activists protesting because one Chick-Fil-A restaurant is donating sandwiches to an upcoming marriage conference.