Photo by Scott Landseidel

As the season turns from fall to winter, many of us are hunkering down and staying cozy in our homes. Early darkness and cold can keep us from venturing out; however, if you’re looking for some magic and want a little adventure it’s time to start listening for owls. Their mating season has begun!

There is no other sound as haunting and exciting as the hoot of the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). These powerful hunters hoot for a number of reasons:

  1. To claim their territory and fend off would-be intruders.
  2. To signal a potential predator.
  3. To communicate between mated pairs. Listen for the duets, which reaffirm their bond. (Audio courtesy of National Audubon Society)

You can go owling in your city park, on your neighborhood streets, or on a wooded trail. Great horned owls can be found in almost any habitat where there is a suitable nesting site (like an old crow nest or a cavity in a dead tree), small rodents for food, and lack of light pollution.

So put on your layers and venture out at dusk. Walk quietly (no talking!) and stop frequently. Cup your hands around your ears (deer ears) to create funnels to better bring in the sounds and listen for the “WHOO-WHOO-WHOO” of the magnificent great horned owl.

Suggested Resources:
Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan – A wonderful, whimsical read for toddlers.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen – An excellent read to set the stage before you take your young ones out.

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