Giant Horned Owl
The "cat owl" is the only large North American owl with ear tufts or "horns". In flight this bird is as large as a Harris hawk or red-tail hawk. It is heavily barred underneath with a conspicuous white throat collar.
Nature's ultimate night stealth stalker
The nocturnal Great Horned Owl, the ultimate stealth stalker, is equipped from head to toe for its nightly food forays. Its pronounced, disk-like face reflects the faint sounds of scurrying animals to its ears which are much larger openings than in other birds. The openings are situated in different places on each side of the head to help them pinpoint his prey.
Its specially adapted, large, yellow eyes gather the most direct and reflected light. The lens focuses the light on the retina which is closer to the lens that in the human eye. Unlike most birds, the owl's eyes are fixed in the sockets straight ahead allowing the same range of vision for both eyes. As a result, the owl can turn its head 270 degrees in either direction to locate its dinner.
Its silent flight is created by soft wing feathers which muffle the sound. With a four-to five foot wingspan and huge talons projected forward, it silently swoops in to grab its victim.
Swallows prey whole
Great horned owls eat rabbits, jackrabbits, rodents such as the pack rat, skunks and other small mammals. Guard your small family pets such as a kitten; the writer speaks from experience. The owl usually swallows its prey whole. Its digestive system, like that of other raptors, uses the nutrients and regurgitates the bones and fur in a pellet.
"Borrow" their housing
These year-round residents do not build their own nests, preferring those built by other large raptors such as the Harris hawk. They will also quietly perch on trees or on roof tops. One bold mother chose a large planter on the second story balcony of a small office building at the Scottsdale Airpark. Everyone kept their distance but the nest was in full view of a second story window. The mother usually watched the nest and her two offspring from a nearby rooftop or telephone pole, periodically bringing in a rabbit to feed the young. Evidently, the mother liked the spot because she returned the next year and raised another family in the same planter.
The young are pale puffs of down with no ear tufts. When they become independent, they are forced out of the hunting area by their parents. The parents will move to new areas if food suppliers decline.
Its low-pitched call is the most easily recognized of all owl calls and contrasts with that of the screech owl,
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