Great Horned Owl

This gallery contains 4 photos. On a rainy and overcast November 13, our backyard was graced with the presence of a sleepy female Great Horned Owl. I have heard owls in the night, but this was the first time in the day that one had actually paid a visit to the backyard. The racket raised by a murder of Northwestern Crows (the Great Horned Owl is their mortal enemy) immediately telegraphed her presence.

© WHSIM Great Horned Owl Stare (full).jpg
Great Horned Owls of the Pacific Northwest are dark, which is great camouflage in the trees
f/8, 1/10, ISO 800, 500mm

No fewer than nine Northwestern Crows harangued her for almost 3 hours with cawing of such loudness and frequency that made it seem like the end of the world was nigh. They would get within a few inches of this nocturnal hunter and largest (by weight) North American owl to give her an earful (and owls have amazingly good (and sensitive) hearing) and even fly by, fly over, and brush her with their wings in repeated attempts to get her to leave her perch on the 100-foot Douglas Fir in the neighbor’s backyard. They would then fly away for a few minutes, and then return to redouble efforts to banish her from their territory.

© WHSIM Great Horned Owl and the Northwestern Crow.jpg
how can one get any sleep with these annoyances?
f/6.3, 1/80, ISO 2000, 500mm

Despite all this harassment, she would merely (and silently) stare at them with her enigmatic golden eyes; she would not budge from her position, and she made no threat displays towards her attackers with wings, talons, or beak. I daresay that, at times, she even appeared to be bored with their antics. Perhaps she knew that she would be wasting heat and energy by doing so. Finally, after three hours, they packed it in and left, and this fluffed up female Great Horned Owl finally got her beauty sleep in the afternoon. I was able to walk right underneath her (she was still 15-20 feet above my head) and watch her snoozing. Perhaps she was dreaming of crow for that night’s dinner!

© WHSIM Great Horned Owl and the Red-Breasted Nuthatch.jpg
a Great Horned Owl was the last bird this Red-Breasted Nuthatch expected to see here!
f/8, 1/13, ISO 800, 500mm

The regular troupe of backyard birds continued to go about their regular daily business at the assorted bird feeders in the yard; some stalwart souls, like a Red-Breasted Nuthatch and a juvenile Anna’s Hummingbird, even went so far as to investigate this dozing giant. All shots were taken from 50 feet away.

© WHSIM Great Horned Owl and the Annas Hummingbird.jpg
an Anna’s hummingbird flies up to investigate the intruder (offering a size comparison of both)
f/8, 1/10, ISO 800, 500mm

Learn more about the Great Horned Owl by visiting its Cornell Lab of Ornithology profile here.


35 thoughts on “Great Horned Owl

    • thanks, Cindy! my previous encounters with GHOs in the wild have never produced any postworthy images — they’re usually too high up in the trees, in shadow, and/or fast asleep!


    • thanks, Deb! it was cool to have this GHO in the backyard–our usual yardbirds were still going about their business of eating and playing (unlike the times when a Sharp-Shinned Hawk would visit, and send all the feathered regulars into hiding).

      Liked by 1 person

    • a couple of Black-Capped Chickadees were also checking out Sleeping Beauty. 🙂 I’m surprised I could get the shot, too–but not surprised to see the hummingbirds being so bold. 🙂


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    • I’m used to seeing crows (and Red-Winged Blackbirds) mob Bald Eagles here fairly regularly, especially in the spring during breeding season, but this is the first time I’ve seen them harass a GHO (relentlessly!)

      Liked by 1 person

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