Today as I walked down the dark sidewalk I heard the familiar hoo-hoo and a great horned owl swooped from the rocky hillside, straight toward me. She flew right over my head, not silent and stealthy like a huntress, but hooting sharply. I could make out her wings, not outstretched, but bent in close to her body as she dove across the sky. Looking around the empty street I wondered that she happened to fly directly over my head! A chance meeting? Or am I being warned away from a breeding territory that two owls are establishing? I’d guess it’s the latter option as this area holds plenty of rocky ledges for nesting and a healthy population of squirrels and cottontails to keep a growing family well fed. The owls must find it particularly annoying when I interrupt the last dusky bit of morning, prime hunting time.
At a Christmas party recently, a couple told of two owls calling to each other from palm trees in their neighborhood, early in the morning and late at night. They were surprised when I told them the owls were probably pairing up for the breeding season. When much of the country is in the clutches of winter, great horned owls of the Sonoran desert make good use of the longest nights to find mates and establish nesting sites.