A Great Horned Owl

Just after sunset last night, the western sky was flushed with warm-orange and gray clouds, two or three bats circled overhead, and in the east, a big orange full moon had risen, glowing through a screen of trees.

A deep, spectral, hooted call echoed from somewhere toward the southwest. HOO-hoo-HOO-oo; hooo-hooo. This rhythmic pattern of three low, softly booming hoots, followed by two slightly longer hoots was repeated several times, with pauses of several seconds between calls. The hoots sounded very low, deep and muffled – but there was no mistaking the call. A Great Horned Owl.

This is the first Great Horned Owl we have ever heard here in our neighborhood, during the 11 years we’ve been here, and it’s the first one I’ve heard for many years. When we lived in a different part of northeast Georgia several years ago, we used to hear them fairly often, and occasionally caught a twilight glimpse of the huge, shadowy owl in flight – and we never heard a Barred Owl. Here, it’s just the opposite. We have Barred Owls, and until now, never a Great Horned.

While Barred Owls prefer deeply-wooded habitat, Great Horned Owls are found in a variety of habitats – forested areas, but also more open woodlands with a mixture of fields and meadows. The habits of both may be adapting and changing as forested habitat is fragmented and lost – both may be found in suburban areas like wooded neighborhoods and parks, as well as in wilder, undeveloped places.

It will be interesting to see if this one was just passing through – a temporary visit – or if we hear more.

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