Saturday, March 26, 2016

More about Great-Horned Owls

Owls Rock

Great-Horned Owls are adaptable creatures. They can be found anywhere in the United States and that includes parts of Alaska as well. Their diet consists of a wide variety of critters. They have been known to dine on almost anything from fish, bugs, and reptiles to birds and mammals. Some of these as big or bigger than they themselves, mammals like skunks, raccoon, and opossum. They kill their prey by crushing them with their powerful feathered talons before they swallow them whole.

Owls prefer to nest in the natural openings they find in trees, or they will take over the abandoned nests of other birds or animals rather than building a nest from scratch. Where they nest is just as versatile as what they choose to eat. Cliff edges, small caves, low bushes, tall grasses, bushy places on the desert floor, and hollows inside cacti are but a few. They have nested in a coyote's den or inside the entrance to a badger's burrow. Sometimes they have even chosen to nest in man-made structures.

Not far from the small town where I live is the larger town of Prescott Valley, Arizona, and the local Home Depot. For years now, a family of owls continue to nest on the very top storage shelf of the outdoor gardenmart. The area they chose is against the wall and under an overhang. Their nest is safely nestled between a large stock of cardboard boxes.

Home Depot has become their private sanctuary. Store employees avoid going anywhere near the site until the nestlings are old enough to move out of the nest and hang out nearby. By this time, the youngsters are about six weeks old. At seven weeks they can fly a little, but owls aren't competent enough to fly well until they are at least ten to twelve weeks of age. Parents continue to feed the juveniles until they are about five months old. And growing young Owls eat a lot!
Eventually, It takes both parents to keep them fed. This means that hunting times are extended to include daylight hours as well. The parent owls usually have large caches of food stored close to the nest. This place is where the owls bring their prey first. Here is where they discard the unwanted parts, things like heads, wings, and feet.

These discards they leave for the Home Depot employees to deal with at a later date.
To learn so much more about these fascinating raptors go to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

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