Owls are fascinating if only because they are so quiet in flight. I have been “overflown” only once, but I distinctly remember the feeling of my hair lifting and the breath of air that brushed my cheek as I realized an enormous Great Horned Owl had just gone past!
If you’ve ever seen the talons on one of these guys close up, you can only have respect for these fierce but silent predators. Those Great Horned talons are nearly as long as my fingers, and razor sharp!
At home in Arizona, we started having problems with something killing our chickens. They were roosters, in a big cage on the ground, where they’d be safe from skunks (which we had a lot of) or raccoons. We had an acre that was fenced with 6 foot chainlink, so I never worried about the coyotes.
Anyway, these roosters were pretty happy in their cage, they got moved every day to eat grass and had a roof to keep from getting hot and provide some shelter if it should rain. And the cage was made out of one-inch chicken wire, so we figured they’d be fine.
But one morning I went to feed before going to work and two of my roos were dead. They’d had their heads ripped right off! Ewww!!!!! Their poor bodies were just lying there, and the rest of the roos were terrified.
We immediately thought “skunk or raccoon” and so that night my hubby set the live-trap up on top of the cage. We double-checked the live-trap to make sure it was ready to go, and went to bed, expecting to have to carry some furry miscreant creature off to the release site (20 miles away) the next day.
Imagine our surprise in the morning when we found, not a skunk (thankfully), not a raccoon, but a nearly full-grown Great Horned Owl in that live-trap! Now, I have to say, that Owl was determined, because he didn’t have room to turn around once he got in that trap.
And those eyes! His (or her) eyes were as big around and just as bright as a new copper penny! I could have held his head in two hands (If I wanted to lose some flesh in the process) it was so big. That wicked beak! And remember those talons, too!
We could tell that it was not mature just by the fact that it had gotten crazy enough to climb into the trap, and were really relieved that it wasn’t hurt. When hubby released it, he said it was just incredible to see that nearly six-foot wingspan unfold out of that 8X8 inch trap!
I remember one researcher that I worked with many years ago telling me a story about an owl that didn’t like him – he was playing a recording of an owl call to find a particular species, and one night he finally called one in. The last time he played the call that night was just before the owl flew up behind him and bonked him on the head with its balled up talons. He said it felt like getting hit with a ball bat!
So, remember tonight to listen for the owls, whether huge, majestic Great Horned Owls or itty bitty Burrowing Owls. They’re all amazing!