After dusk this week, I heard great horned owls calling. Year-round residents of the United States, they begin their days after sunset.
Turn your volume way up to hear the call of the great horned owl and a juvenile calling to a parent. The Ojai Raptor Center very kindly provided information about the second, higher pitched call.
As a former volunteer at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, I learned that owls’ ears are not symmetrically positioned on their heads. To better hear their prey, one ear is slightly above the other, so as to triangulate the location of their next meal. Superior night vision also helps them find food. Owl flight is so quiet, their prey never hears them coming. Great horned owls’ diets include osprey, peregrine falcons, rodents, frogs and scorpions.
Owls are difficult to spot, as their feathers provide great camouflage. However, crows have been known to mob owls, urging them to move out of their territory. Next time you hear a murder of crows cawing in a tree, see if there’s an owl at the center of their attention.
At our neighborhood farm stand this weekend, I learned that the 2018 Woolsey Fire in Malibu eliminated the familiar call of great horned owls. This autumn, after a two-year absence, the owls are back, and the rodent and rabbit population is markedly decreased.