Great horned owlets at home in Camp Polk Meadow Preserve

Jun 19, 2014
Adorable great horned owlets have been spotted at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Learn six fun facts about these cool owls and watch their video debut on our blog!

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:

  1. If the Great Horned owl were the same size as a human, its powerful eyes would be the size of oranges.  
  2. These owls are also know as cat owls, hoot owl, big-eared owl, and “tigers of the sky.” These names reflect the owls tenacious aggressiveness and ability to hunt prey larger than itself.
  3. The Great Horned owls are the most widely distributed owl in the Americas. Their color varies depending on their location: Canadian owls are dark, owls found in arid locations are sandy in color, and arctic birds are virtually white.
  4. Great Horned owls take life-long mates. They make homes out of abandoned nests built by hawks, crows, or eagles.
  5. The owl is known in many cultures to be a symbol of good luck and wisdom. Other cultures perceive the bird as a sign of death and doom.
  6. The Great Horned owl is the only animal that dines on skunks. Bon appetit! 

Juvenile Great Horned owl. Photo: Kris Kristovich.

 What owls do you see in Central Oregon? Leave your answers in the comments below!