In honour of the Superbowl being held today, I am going to blog about a Superb Owl. The most superb owl I could think of off the top my head was the great horned owl, so that’s what today’s animal will be!
Great horned owls live in a widespread area in North and South America. They can live in a number of different habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, deserts, swamps, and both rural and urban areas. It is quite the versatile creature. But then, you have to be pretty flexible to win the Superb Owl award (okay I’ll stop using this lame pun now).
Female great horned owls are larger than males, averaging 1.7 kg in weight while males only average 1.3 kg. They are the second heaviest owl in North America, after the Snowy Owl. They have an overall length of 45-63 cm and a wingspan of 127-152 cm. Colouration varies according to location, with forest-dwelling owls tending to be darker than those in more open habitats, such as deserts. The ‘horned’ part of their name originates from the feather tufts that sit atop the owls’ heads. Though these look like ears they actually have nothing to do with hearing.
Mating season for great horned owls occurs between November and April, with pairs finding each other through hooting rituals. Once pairs are formed, they become territorial, particularly around their nest. They are not great nest builders, usually using nests made by squirrels or other birds. Pretty lazy, if you ask me. Great horned owls have broods of 1-4 chicks, which fledge 6-9 weeks after hatching and are independent at 5-10 weeks.
Great horned owls are impressive birds; they are deadly hunters that hunt rabbits, voles and other small mammals. Sometimes they can take quite large prey, such as porcupines or domestic cats. Their large eyes make horned owls excellent night predators, so they are often active at night. Though their eyes cannot move in their sockets, the owls’ necks can swivel 180 degrees, which gives them almost 360 degree vision.
They don’t have much to fear from other predators, as they are so large and intimidating. I’ve always had a great fondness for birds, but owls are especially cool. The great horned owl definitely deserves some recognition, if only for its awesome and stately appearance.