The Great Horned Owl is one of the largest members of the owl family. Their feet are as powerful as they are big, capable of seizing animals as large as opossums and racoons. The Great Horned Owl is also one of the only birds that dine on skunks and porcupines. This adaptable hunter is fearless, and is sometimes called the ‘Flying Tiger.’
Great Horned Owls nest early, usually late December and January, in a large stick nest or in the hollow of a tree. They sometimes take over an abandoned nest of a Red Tailed Hawk. After the young are hatched, they stay with the parents for several months until they are well versed in the art of hunting.
Contrary to its name, the Eastern Screech Owl does not really screech at all! They have more of a wavering whistle. The Eastern Screech Owl is a short, stocky bird, with a very large head and virtually no neck. The colors of an Eastern Screech Owl vary from mostly gray or primarily reddish-brown. Their feathers are patterned with spots and bands that help to camouflage them when they are against the bark of a tree.
The ear tufts on top of their heads have nothing to do with their hearing; rather, they help to camouflage the bird when perched in a tree, the tufts, when erect, form a ‘V’ which mimics a forked branch in a tree, and, in addition, when they erect the tufts of feathers, they are communicating with others of their species. Erecting the tufts also help frighten away potential enemies because it makes the owl appear larger. In the wild, Eastern Screech Owls can live to be 10 years of age and up to twice that in captivity.
The Barn Owl has several different names, such as the heart-faced owl, the monkey-faced owl, and the ghost owl. They are nocturnal, meaning that they are very active at night. Their name comes from the fact that they like to live in barns and other man-made structures. Barn Owls have excellent hearing and vision, and, because of their especially soft feathers, they have the ability of ‘silent flight.’
The Barred Owl is named after the barred, feathers marked with transverse bands of distinctive color, feather patterns on its chest. They can live to be 40 years old in captivity and about half that age in the wild. Barred Owls prefer large, heavily forested areas and low-lying swamps and creek beds where they can dine on mice, chipmunks, birds, and amphibians.
You can tell whether a bird hunts more during the night or during the day by the color of its eyes. The eyes of the Barred Owl are very dark, indicating they hunt almost entirely at night.