Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, December 12, 2011

Owls In The Garden


The resident owls woke me in the middle of the night with their hooting under the full moon. Their distinctive hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo identifies them as Great Horned Owls (here for sound).  It could be a hunting pair, or a single trying to find a mate or a simple warning to stay away from my territory!

My spirit soars when I hear them calling. The neighborhood lost a large track of land to an ugly shopping center and I mourned the loss of meadow, woodland and stream for all the displaced critters. The resident owls have never left, but, I do worry that one day they will not live in my garden. I would miss their hoo-hoo-hooing.

source A Brendan Lally photo of the Great Horned Owl
As a gardener and wildlife enthusiast I am well aware that the circle of life in nature and on a smaller scale in my garden is one of predator and prey and owls play a huge role as predators of small mammals.  With their keen eyesight and excellent hearing they can swoop down on unsuspecting mice, voles, rabbits and other critters.  But, they also are known to predate birds, bats and even skunks and possums. Scarcely anything that moves is safe from this owl and when you consider that it has 200-300 pounds per square inch of crushing power in its talons you can understand what a powerful predator it is! (The average adult human male has about 60 pounds per square inch in his hands.)

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America and is found in the Arctic tundra, tropical forest, the desert and in many of our suburban backyards. Given enough food, water and available nesting and roosting sites the Great Horned is very adaptable.  It's possible that a mated pair may live nearer  your house than you might know!  I've read that if you go out on a winter night and hoo-hoo-hoo loudly you might have one call back to you!

xoxogail

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone."

29 comments:

  1. I love owls - and enjoy hearing them around and about the garden at night - but I never see them. Shedman and I are contemplating making an owl nesting box for the back of the studio - it would be so cool if it was used
    Fabulous full moon image Gail
    K
    xxx

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  2. What a coincidence - I was woken by an owl hooting this morning! I love hearing them. One night I was driving back home and a barn owl flew in fron of the car. It was magical.
    xxx

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  3. I often hear owls in my garden but have never seen them. They are a sign of a healthy habitat! I love them. On my bucket list is to photograph one, one day!

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  4. That is a hauntingly beautiful call isn't it? Love the owls, love the post.

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  5. I hear owls hooting across the street in the woods behind my neighbors' houses. I love that sound on a quiet night, especially when the moon is full.

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  6. Like Carol, I hear them across the way, too. The sound is haunting but not at all scary, to humans, anyway. May they always grace Clay and Limestone!
    xxxooo
    Frances

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  7. One night I returned home and nearly felt rushing wings fly right over my head. Then, I heard the owl's loud call. It rocked me to my socks! I know there are several owls around hers.~~Dee

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  8. The barn owls I see here are welcome for their work in lowering the mouse population. I would love to hear a Great Horned Owl in real life!

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  9. We had a neighbor that had a big dead apple tree in her garden where the Great Horned owls would nest. She cut down the tree because she thought it unsightly. I cried. We never hear it any more.

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  10. We have heard owls hoot, rather alarming when they bellow down the chimney or the whirlibird vents. Just a few times we have seen them - perched on the roof or high up in a tree. Owlbox is on our list.

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  11. There is a children's book about owls with delightful illustrations. It is the story of a father taking his child out on a winter's night to call for the owl. They hike to a clearing and call and the owl comes towards them and hoots back. I wish I could remember the name of the book. It's one of my absolute favorites. Your post reminds me of it. We have owls in the woods behind the neighbors. Every now and then you can hear them. It's always a delight. Great post!

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  12. Hoo Hoo Hoo is the lucky girl? Owls are so nice to have around and Great Horned are the best. We have been having the slightly more eerie coyote howling here. They howl at the beautiful moon but also when the fire siren from the nearest town goes off.

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  13. Grace, It was Owl Moon and i remember it well/ It was a lovely book filled with wonder and an adventure with a dad. I loved it and so did my son. xxoog

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  14. There is something about an owl hoo hooing in the night that makes me smile. One of my favorite birds to watch.

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  15. We have a pair of Great Horned Owls on the farm for the first time this year. We've always had Barred Owls before now.

    We flushed one of the GHs from the wood's edge the other day when we were handwalking the horses.

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  16. So nice to have owls! I often hear them hooting in the evening and early morning. I have tried to spot them before, but no luck yet.

    It's so nice that the owls stayed even with the loss of some of the habitat around! It is so sad to see more and more forested areas cut down.

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  17. How thrilling! I heard a Great Horned once from my own backyard and was so excited. I read they will eat geese, of which we have many nearby in the river. They overnight in the small bay here. In this area, I have seen the silhouette of a Great Horned Owl high in a tree, a Barred Owl and a Snowy. Each time I am impressed.

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  18. Imagining the sounds dear Gail of your owl with your spectacular image of the moon is thrilling. I hope it will never leave your garden. How could it for your wise and caring stewardship is most likely its reason for survival.

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  19. How cool that you have owls nearby! I haven't heard owls around here for years. I think the book Grace Peterson is referring to is "Owl Moon" by Jane Yolen.

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  20. That made me laugh, I've had more than one conversation with a great-horned owl at night here. Fortunately nobody lives close enough to hear the crazy woman trying to speak owl in the dark ;) I've been hearing the owls get quite chatty here in recent weeks, and like you, I'd be terribly sad if they ever left. The only good thing is I doubt we'll run out of voles any time soon, so they have plenty to eat around here, and hopefully that will give them incentive to stay!

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  21. I've hooted with great horneds before! I love to hear them "talk" in the back garden. I've yet to spot one back there, but I did catch a glimpse of a great horned owl at our former house, and it was amazing. They are very large. I'm hoping for a new little tenant in my screech owl box this winter.

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  22. Gail, love all the critters and the woods that now surround my cottage. Do not miss city life.
    Love your image...

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  23. Oh i love most that first photo, as if foreshadowing a horror drama. For me it goes well with the owl, as when we were kids we were really afraid of its howling. We just hear them after midnight or before dawn, but we never had the chance to see it, maybe they are in the forest a bit far from us. I wonder what happened as these days, we lost that sound.

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  24. We have a pair of Barred Owls in our woods. Have seen a Great Horned Owl, but haven't heard them calling. They are such cool birds to hear AND see! Glad you have a pair in your woods.

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  25. Wonderful moon photo with the bare tree branches Gail.
    I worry about our resident owls too because they are turning the field behind our house into a development. I hope they stay but each year the "natural" area gets smaller and smaller.
    When my dog was a puppy, I had one swoop over him when we were out after midnight on a "last call" bathroom run. I started waving my arms and yelling and it flew up. I know they have to eat too but I didn't want my dog to be dinner!!
    They are definitely majestic birds.

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  26. We've seen an increase in predator birds here the last couple of years. I love being outdoors late at night hearing owls' calls. Sometimes I can see their silhouettes in the trees this time of year.

    We seem to have fewer squirrels and rabbits this year, possibly due to the increase in owls and hawks around here. Most years after the leaves fall, we see five squirrel's nests, give or take. This year there's only one nest. They're fun to watch, but very destructive in the garden, especially in the numbers we've had them. I'd miss them if they were gone completely, but happy to see less of them.

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  27. I love owls and you got a beautiful capture. Love your moon shot through the trees too. Just beautiful!

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  28. How wonderful that your garden is supporting these beautiful birds and lucky that you get to hear them regularly. Owls are one thing I have not seen or heard in our area but I'm hoping as we remove the lawn and return this area to a more natural surroundings they will eventually come.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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