Bird watch: Great horned owl

Published Jan 2, 2013 at 04:00AM

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus

Characteristics: Average size is 22 inches long with a 44-inch wingspan. This is a large, fierce-looking owl with prominent ear tufts, gray or brown mottled undersides with dark barring, a reddish-brown facial disk, large yellow eyes with black pupils and a white throat patch.

Breeding: Nests in rocky caves or ledges; abandoned hawk, magpie or raven nests; or tree cavities. Eggs may be laid in early winter (January and February).

Habitat: Widespread, from urban areas to deserts, lowland forests and up to alpine woodlands across most of North and South America.

Food: Although mostly nocturnal, may hunt during the day. Preys on small to large mammals, from mice to rabbit-sized creatures, including skunks, porcupines and occasionally domestic cats. Also preys on birds, reptiles, amphibians, bats and insects.

Bird facts: Females tend to be larger and more heavily marked than males; some birds have pale plumage. Song is a series of deep hoots that have an up-and-down cadence represented by “Who’s Awake? Me Too.” Males have a deeper pitch than females. Owl pellets contain remains of previous meal.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and David Sibley’s “The Sibley Guide to Birds.”

— Damian Fagan is a birder, writer and past president of the East Cascades Audubon Society. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.