Owls


The snowy owl is able to survive in harsh environments and  makes its summer home above latitude 60° north.  During the winter, snowy owls can be seen in North Dakota when some owls migrate south to better obtain food.  Snowy eat 7 to 12 mice per day and can consume more than 1,600 lemmings per year. Snowy owls are diurnal and are active during the day as well as night.

 




Snowy Owls


Males are almost all white, while females have more flecks of black plumage. Juvenile snowy owls have black feathers until they turn white.

Male Snowy Owls are barred with dark brown when they’re young and get whiter as they get older. Females keep some dark markings throughout their lives. Although the darkest males and the palest females are nearly alike in color, the whitest birds—including the ones that played Harry Potter’s Hedwig—are always males and the most heavily barred ones are always females.


Reference: All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology





 An owl can turn its head up to 270 degrees left or right from the forward facing position due to several reasons:

  • An owl's neck has 14 vertebrae, twice as many as humans.
  • Owls have only one occipital connection with the cervical vertebrae.  Humans have connnections. This allows the owl to move its head on the vertebrae column to a greater degree than people can.
  • Owls have a special structure of the jugular veins to ensure that blood supply is not impeded as the neck is rotated.



Great Horned Owls


Great Horned Owlets

The great horned owl is found in North and South America and is second in size only to the snowy owl in North America.  This owl eats rabbits and hares, rats and mice and voles. The great horned owl nests early, often laying eggs weeks or even months before other raptors.

Great horned owls are year round residents of North Dakota and can be found even in Alaska and northern Canada.  They prefer forrested areas with access to open fields for hunting. 


Females are larger than males but males have a larger voice box and a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.  They are nocturnal and have excellent night vision.


Owls are squatters, they take over nests previously built by red-tailed or Swainson's hawks or other larger birds.  Since they are often the earliest breeding species, they have their pick of many available nest built in earlier years.


Mated pairs are monogamous and defend their territories with vigorous hooting, especially in the winter before egg-laying and in the fall when their young leave the area.


Short-eared Owl



Northern Saw-whet Owl


Northern Saw-whet Owl

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

One of the most common owls in forests across northern North America (and across the U.S. in winter), saw-whets are highly nocturnal and seldom seen.  During daylight they roost in dense vegetation, typically just above eye level and near the trunk in evergreen trees.



Burrowing Owls

The burrowing owl is a small, long-legged owl found in prairies and deserts of North and South America.  They nest in burrows, such as those excavated by prairie dogs.  Burrowing owls are often active during the day and will also hunt at night.


They are seasonal visitors to North Dakota when they come here in the spring through fall for breeding.  They winter in southwestern states and Central America where they are found year round along with South America.


Before laying eggs, Burrowing Owls carpet the entrances to their homes with animal dung, which attracts dung beetles and other insects that the owls then catch and eat.

More Owl Photos


Great Horned Owl December 2018


Rough-legged Hawk and Great Horned Owl December 2018


2020 Photos

Watch the Babies Grow Up!



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



The great horned owl, also known as the tiger owl or the hoot owl, is a large owl native to the Americas. It is an extremely adaptable bird with a vast range and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas.  Its primary diet is rabbits and hares, rats and mice, and voles, although it freely hunts any animal it can overtake, including rodents and other small mammals, larger mid-sized mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrate.   The great horned owl is one of the earliest nesting birds in North America, often laying eggs weeks or even months before other raptorial birds.  Great horned owls are some of the earliest-breeding birds in North America, seemingly in part because of the lengthy nightfall at this time of year and additionally the competitive advantage it gives the owl over other raptors. In most of North America, courtship is from October to December and mates are chosen by December to January.  Nests with open access, considering this birds large size, as opposed to enclosed with surrounding branches, are preferred. Like all owls, great horned owls do not build their own nest. Great horned owls tend to examine an area for an abandoned nest, generally from larger birds like hawks, and take over the nest for raising their own young.  They nest in a wider variety of nest sites than any other North American bird.  Many nests are in cavernous hollows of dead trees or their branches, especially in southern states in large trees along the edge of old-growth lots.  In mountainous or hilly areas, especially in canyons of the southwest and Rocky Mountains, cliff ledges, small caves, and other sheltered depressions may be used.  Owls living in prairie country, in the absence of other animals' nests, riparian trees or non-native trees or the bare ground of tree hollows or man-made structures, will use boulders, buttes, railroad cuts, low bushes and even the bare ground as nest sites.  There are usually 2 eggs per clutch, but clutches range in size from 1 to 6 eggs (over 3 is uncommon, over 4 is very rare), depending on environmental conditions.  The young weigh around 34.7 g (1.22 oz) at birth on average and can gain an average of about 33.3 g (1.17 oz) a day for the first four weeks of life, with typical weights in the range of 800 or 1,000 g (1.8 or 2.2 lb) by 25–29 days for males and females, respectively.  When first hatched the young are covered in whitish gray down, with some brownish about the wings. Gradually the soft juvenal downy plumage comes through the down, being typically a cinnamon-buff color, but with variable hues predicting the eventual color of the mature owls. The extent of down gradually diminishes, developing mature-looking plumage by late summer, although many first-year birds still have scattered bits of down into autumn. By late autumn, first-year birds look similar to adults but with a slightly warmer, reddish tinge, less well developed ear tufts and a smaller white throat patch. The nestling owls develop mostly in behavior between two weeks and two months of age, in which time they adapt the ability to defend themselves, grasp foods and climb. Vocally, the young are able to exert weak chips while still in the egg, developing into a raspy chirp shortly after hatching. The calls of the young increase rapidly in intensity, pitch and character, some juvenile males mimicking their father's hooting in fall but usually they conclude with various odd gurgling notes. The earliest competent hooting by juvenile owls is not until January.  Young owls move onto nearby branches at 6 weeks and start to fly about a week later. However, the young are not usually competent fliers until they are about 10 to 12 weeks old.  The age at which the young leave the nest is variable based on the abundance of food.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_horned_owl



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 26, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 29, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 29, 2020



Feeding Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- April 29, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 29, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 29, 2020



Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

April 29, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 1, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 1, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 1, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 1, 2020



Photos from May 2, 2020 were in the evening and are backlit


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020


Thanks to a wonderful and generous private landowner, I was able to observe and photograph a Great Horned Owl nest for 5 weeks this spring, from April 26 to May 31. He set up a blind for me and I was able to watch several times a week as two baby owls grew up. Most of the time, nothing was going on other than sleeping baby owls. Occasionally, mom would return to the nest as she did on the evening of May 2 as the sun was setting. You can see how translucent her wing feathers are.




Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 2, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020


In the company of coyotes (including an irritated coyote who loudly complained about my presence at 2 AM) and ticks (including one who shared my sleeping bag), I slept on the frigid prairie in my small tent on the night of May 2, 2020. The temperature was in the mid 20s with a strong northwesterly wind. The purpose was to photograph the owls in evening and then morning light. Mom owl did not disappoint as she flew to the nest to keep her babies (owlets) warm!




Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Breakfast of Ringed-necked Pheasant


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Breakfast of Ringed-necked Pheasant


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owl Sunrise!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 3, 2020



Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Mom is Tired- Big Yawn!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Got an Itch!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Look at Those Talons!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Take Off!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



4.6 foot Wingspan!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- May 6, 2020



Heart Shaped Flight!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Mommy- We are Happy to See You!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Mommy- I am Hungry!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Head touching Head!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Practice Flying!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Duck for Breakfast!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Family!

There is a lot happening in this photograph.  Mom is feeding the smaller owlet a breakfast of Mallard duck.  The larger owlet is practice flying.  All three owls are in focus!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Mallard for Breakfast!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 6, 2020



Great Horned Owlets

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 10, 2020



Great Horned Owl Blind

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 10, 2020



Great Horned Owl Blind

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 10, 2020



Green Darter Snake for Breakfast!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020



Green Darter Snake for Breakfast!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- May 15, 2020



Showing her Baby the Snake!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020



Baby's Mouth is Open!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020



Bringing Food to her Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020



Baby has Breakfast!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020



Family!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Family!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Feeding Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Feeding Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Feeding Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Feeding Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Feeding Baby!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Tip of the Tongue!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Sharing!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Baby is Full!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Playing with Pheasant Bones!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 15, 2020




Hunkering Down on a Very Windy Day!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 19, 2020




Getting Close to Fledging- Baby on Left is on a Branch!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Mom is on a Distant Tree Watching the Nest!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Mom Taking Off!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Mom Flew to a Closer Tree where She Saw Something in the Grass!


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Mom Bringing in a Mouse for Breakfast!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- May 23, 2020




Extending Legs for Landing!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Mom Gave her Baby the Mouse!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Baby has the Mouse!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Baby has the Mouse!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Got an Itch!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 23, 2020




Learning How to Leave the Nest!


Sister on the left has learned to climb the branch but Brother on the right was reluctant to do so!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Hey Brother, Come Join me on this Strong Branch!


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Come on brother, you can do it!"

"Sister, I am afraid, I want to stay in the nest!"


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"OK Sister, I will give it a try!"


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Look sister, I hopped on to the branch.  Is that good enough?"


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Oh oh, I lost my balance and hit my nose on the branch.  Ouch, that hurt!"


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"That is OK brother, your nose will feel better soon!"


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"I will hold my wing out for you- just head towards me, said sister."

"OK, I will, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"I am holding out my leg and foot- just walk towards me, said sister."

"OK, I can do that, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"You are almost here!, said sister."

"I am getting close, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"I am using my wings to keep my balance, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"You made it!, said sister."

"I made it, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Congratulations brother, I am proud of you!, said sister."

"Thank you sister, for encouraging and helping me!, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"I love you brother, said sister."

"I love you too, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"You are the best!, said sister."

"So are you!, said brother."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- May 26, 2020




"Now I am going to show you how to fly.  First, you get ready, said sister."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Then you Jump!, said sister."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"Then you flap your wings!, said sister."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"The next time people see us, we will have flown to different trees!, said sister."


Great Horned Owls

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




"They won't see me, I am hiding!, said brother."


Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 26, 2020




Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 27, 2020




Great Horned Owl

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 27, 2020




Empty Nest

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 30, 2020




Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 30, 2020




Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 30, 2020




Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 31, 2020




Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 31, 2020




Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 31, 2020




Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 31, 2020




So long!  It has been great watching you grow up over the past 5 weeks!


Fledged Owlet

Oliver County, North Dakota

May 31, 2020



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