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July 29, 2013 - 10:38am

Great horned owl doesn't get its feathers ruffled

posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, great horned owl.

At first glance this photo appears to be nothing more than some tall wild grass. But a look just beyond the grass reveals an ominous shape and a pair of sinister-looking eyes. Even before I took this photo the first image I saw was that of a large bundle of feathers with a pair of enormous wings extended.

A closer look revealed a great horned owl that had apparently just made a kill and looks none too pleased over my intrusion. Judging from its size I'd say it's a female and she's on full alert, unsure of my intentions. Her raised tufts and intense, glowering stare seem to be saying, "stay away."   

You may find it funny, but, I took several photos and talked to her the entire time. Though still eyeing me warily, she seemed less tense. Unlike a few previous encounters where the owls repeatedly clacked their beak and emitted a hissing sound, this gal just looked at me as I took her picture.    

I've long had an infatuation with mature great horned owls, dating back to my first enounter in the late Sixties. They are an ultimate predator, and while highly nocturnal, they do make daytime hunting forays. They can rotate their head 280 degrees, enabling them to watch their own back, so to speak. That's quite an asset while hunting from a perch. Their long, thick talons will easily skewer flesh and they are built for silent flight as there is no swooshing of air as it passes though their feathers. Except for mating calls and territorial warnings, they navigate the wilds without making a sound.

Eventually I turned and walked away, as fascinated as ever with the great horned owl.

Doug Yeomans
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Love the post. I can remember as a kid a great horned owl nested somewhere in the woods pretty close to our house in Tyre, NY. I could hear its distinct call at night while I thought T-Rex was prowling around looking in my bedroom window.

Jason Crater
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AWESOME! Thanks for posting, as always!

Ron C Welker
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Nice shots Jim, once in a lifetime opportunity.
Thanks for sharing.

Cheryl Wilmet
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Beautiful pictures.

Gail Gawlak
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Stunning pictures! I have been in love with owls ever since hearing one on a telephone pole outside my home in the middle of the night in Elba. They are truly magnificent creatures!

Mardell Lamb
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Owls are amazing ~ thanks, Jim. Always love your posts! Keep 'em coming, please!

Loretta Gamin
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Awesome pictures Jim!! As always I enjoy your nature pictures. Thank you for sharing!

JIM NIGRO
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Wow.....thanks much for all the comments!

Elizabeth Downie
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It's been a while since your last post, Jim... I've missed you! These are some great photos! We used to have a pair of Great Horned Owls that had a nest in the woods behind my parents' old house years back. We loved listening to their calls and seeing them flying around. They are just beautiful creatures!

JIM NIGRO
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Thank you, Elizabeth....we occasionally hear them calling from the woods that border Tonawanda Creek out back of our home and further upstream. Along with the mournful and at times maniacal call of the Loon, the Great Horned Owl ranks right up there as my favorite call of the wild!

Kyle Couchman
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Jim I have some questions for you that are a lil too detailed to get into here. When you get a chance please e-mail me @ [email protected] if you could. Thanks

Jami Bartz
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Maybe she read chapter 18 of Tapestry...so she trusts you! :) Great pictures, Dad!

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