Great Horned Owl Meet and Greet

Photo by Terry Stevens

Photo by Terry Stevens

Twice in the past week I’ve encountered great horned owls. Before daylight I walk with my dog down a sidewalk where overlarge dwellings loom on both sides and street lights cast pale circles. It was Monday when I passed beneath a giant acacia willow and heard hooting so close I grew goose bumps. Peering at me from about fifteen feet overhead was a great horned owl. Dark feathers on her head and breast contrasted sharply with her white throat patch. I tried to take a picture, but the flash was obnoxious and the resulting image showed only drooping acacia leaves. One street over I could make out another bulky owl silhouette in a tall tree just above a rooftop and the two traded calls as I moved away.
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.

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6 responses to “Great Horned Owl Meet and Greet

  1. Such a fortunate sighting and better yet, a resident in your hood. Me thinks they have set up a breeding territory and you will, in a few months, hear and see this year’s brood announce themselves….gives me goosebumps also!

  2. Owls are strange birds indeed. They have always intrigued me, but the few sightings I’ve had of barn owls, great grays, and barred owls, I didn’t have my camera with me!

  3. How fortunate for you. I had one fly right past my face. I watched it take off from its’ perch on the roof and glided within inches of my face. I was a little surprised but not frightened.

  4. Owls of all kinds…I just love ’em!

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