Sunday, January 25, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Tuleyome Tales: Whoo? It’s a great horned owl

owlW

A huge great horned owl basks in the early-morning sun high in a tree. Sometimes called “cat owls” because of their ear-like tufts, great horned owls occupy a wide variety of habitats in California, including riparian forests, cliffsides, deserts and even residential areas. And they’re not particular about where they nest, either. Mary K. Hanson/Courtesy photo

By Mary K. Hanson

I was walking with my dog through a stretch of riparian — riverside — habitat in the region, and was suddenly attracted to the sound of a group of acorn woodpeckers, high up in the trees, having a squawking fit over something, so I went to see what the problem was.

At first, all I saw was the woodpeckers themselves. They were in quite a tizzy, shouting their loud, rasping calls as they jumped from branch to branch, flashing their wings. I couldn’t see anything in the tree that might have been the cause of such a ruckus, however, so I looked around a bit more. And then I spotted it.

In another tree just a few feet away was a huge great horned owl (bubo virginianus).

Basking in the early-morning sun, he swiveled his large head around, looked at me with sleepy, amber-gold eyes and then proceeded to completely ignore me. I couldn’t ignore him, though. In fact, I think I stood there for about 20 minutes or so just watching him and taking photographs. Great horned owls are one of the most easily recognizable owls in the country, but I’d never seen one this close up before. I was mesmerized.

Sometimes called “cat owls” because of their ear-like tufts, great horned owls occupy a wide variety of habitats in California, including riparian forests, cliffsides, deserts and even residential areas. And they’re not particular about where they nest, either. These owls may take over the treetop nests of other large birds, or move into an abandoned squirrel’s nest, occupy stumps, ledges, barns and “owl boxes” or other manmade structures.

Nesting season is generally between December and July — so we’re right in the middle of it now. Although they only use a nesting site once in a season and don’t return to it the next year, the owls are good tenants, with both parents looking after their young nestlings and one another. Female great horned owls usually lay two or three eggs in a clutch and then both parents take turns incubating them, with the male leaving the nest only to hunt down food for his mate.

Great horned owls have a somewhat broad diet that sometimes can include other birds (which explains why the acorn woodpeckers were so upset that the owl was so nearby) and prey larger than themselves, but they most often stick to mice, rabbits, squirrels and other small mammals, including skunks.

Like all owls, the great horned owls tend to swallow their meals whole, and then regurgitate up the indigestible parts like bones and fur in “pellet” form. (It’s not uncommon to find complete mouse skulls in these pellets.)

Once the owlets arrive, both parents remain to care for them until they’re about 9 weeks old and ready to fly off on their own. Even after the owlets are airborne, their parents still may look after them for a few more months. In fact, great horned owls are exceedingly protective of their young; they’d have no qualms about attacking a human who got to close to their youngsters. So, if you see a nest or owlets, it’s best to give them a wide berth.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been able to spot several of these large, handsome birds in the local area — including a female in her nest above an outcropping of mistletoe — so keep an eye out for them, especially if you’re walking just before dusk when they’re heading out to hunt or just after dawn when they’re heading back to their daytime resting sites. And remember to take lots of photos!

— Tuleyome Tales is a monthly publication of Tuleyome, a conservation organization with offices in Woodland and Napa. Mary K. Hanson is an amateur naturalist and photographer who is the author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout” blog. For more information about Tuleyome, go to www.tuleyome.org.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Red Cross honors community heroes

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Winter produce available at Sutter market

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Share your love (story) with us

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Donations to be distributed during homeless count

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Speaker will share computer security tips

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

     
    Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Davis, Woodland are saving water

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

     
    Words and Music Festival events

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12

    .

    Forum

     
    Caring for the aging mouth

    By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

     
    Family isn’t keen on relationship

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

    Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

    By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

     
    We have the right to choose

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    We don’t have to suffer

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    City helped immensely

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

     
    From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    .

    Sports

    Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD men take two tennis matches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

     
    Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

    By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Thomas George Byrne

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8