What has ‘horns,’ sends shivers down your spine when you hear it in the dark, and can be found raising the next generation of night predators at Bolsa Chica? It can only be:
October’s bird of the month is the spectacularly spooky Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)!!!!
Great horned owls don’t actually have horns, instead the ‘horns’ are feather tufts on top of their head. Current hypotheses on the use of these feathers are for communication and camouflage. Owl ears are off-set on the side of the head, and the bird’s feathers on their face form a facial disc that helps focus sound waves to their ears making the owl’s hearing very sensitive. Their big beautiful yellow eyes cannot move independently, so they have to move their entire head more than 180 degrees to look around! Like the majority of owl species, great horned owls are nocturnal.
They are found through out most of the Americas and aren’t very picky about habitat. Nicknamed the ‘tiger owl’ because of it’s aggressive hunting behavior, these birds have a wide variety of prey they hunt from mammals to tiny scorpions and even ospreys (don’t believe me, check out this nestcam footage)! So next time you are reading a spooky story with the hoot of an owl, think of this deep iconic hoot of the Great Horned Owl.
At Bolsa Chica there is a breeding pair who have successfully raised owlets (baby owls) on the Mesa. Proof you ask? Here are some adorable pictures to AWW over.
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Learn more about the Year of the Bird from: Audubon, BirdLife International, National Geographic, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Explained
New to birding? Check out this beginner’s guide to birding!
Photos: Ivan Turbin