In the evenings one can hear many types of birds in the neighborhoods surrounding Briarlake Forest. One call that stands out is the “WHOO-oo-oo, Who-Who” of a great horned owl. Joe Weissman spied this one high up in a tree using the telephoto lens on his camera. After about 15 minutes of hooting, the owl took flight and swooped over a path in the forest, perhaps to find some dinner. Voles anyone?
According to the Wikipedia article on Great Horned Owls, these birds have a wingspan of between 3 and 5 feet, and weigh between 1 1/2 and 5 1/2 pounds. Naturalists also call them “tiger owls” because they seem to be the functional equivalent of tigers in the air. They hunt small mammals, birds, and the occasional reptile or amphibian, typically eating the equivalent of a couple of voles each night. Mice, rats, and rabbits are often found in the Great Horned Owl’s diet, but they sometimes hunt opossums or raccoons, and sometimes even coyote pups.
Great horned owls typically live about 13 years, though some that were studied in the wild lived 21 or 22 years, and one has been reported to have lived 38 years in captivity. They stay within about a one mile radius throughout their entire life once they have established their territory.
Owls help balance the population of rodents in their area. The mystique of the owl’s call and the grace of its flight are some of the impressions that make the Briarlake Forest a special place.