Take a trip to Camp Polk Meadow Preserve and you may see big, yellow, cat-like eyes peering out of a tall ponderosa pine tree. Inspect closer to see the start of tufted feather “horns” and fuzzy brown and grey feathers with black bar markings. Then, allow yourself to be completely overwhelmed by the epic adorableness of the sight: juvenile great horned owls snoozing in the tree.
These owlets have consistently been spotted at their home tree in Camp Polk Meadow Preserve while their mother hunts the meadow for insects, rodents, frogs, and other snacks. Curiously, while great horned owls are nocturnal hunters, the Camp Polk Meadow owls have been surprisingly active in the mornings. The mother has even been spotted swooping down for prey in the daylight.
Please be respectful and take care not to get too close to the young owls. Adults have been known to attack when they feel their family is being threatened. Great horned owls are the most powerful of the common owls, and, with a 4-5 ft wingspan, they stand out as one of the larger owl species. Great horned owls are fierce and stealthy hunters, using their impeccable hearing and sharp vision to catch their prey. They can even hear the squeak of a mouse (up to 900 feet away!), rotate their head 270 degrees to spot their target, and—with the help of soft, fringed feathers that reduce the sound of rushing air—attack almost silently. Watch our Camp Polk Meadow Preserve great horned owls in action:
Great horned owls typically start nesting in January. The female incubates her eggs while her mate brings food and within a month up to five eggs will hatch. The parents guard the owlets closely and feed them for several months, often providing their meals until as late as October.
Although Great Horned owls have few natural predators, loss of habitat has decreased the owl’s nesting and hunting grounds. We are happy this owl family has made a home at protected Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, where the newly restored Whychus Creek attracts insects, frogs and food for the owls to eat.
|Fun Great Horned owl facts:
What owls do you see in Central Oregon? Leave your answers in the comments below!