Great Horned Owl calls

Rebecca Coulter
 

Around 5:00 this morning I woke hearing a sound I’ve never heard from Great Horned Owl before: a piercing, hawk-like single call note, repeated every 5-10 seconds. I grabbed my binoculars and found the bird perched on a power line next to my house, which is near the municipal golf course. Though I could barely make out any detail, I could see that it was very large (female?), with just a suggestion of “ear” tufts visible. (young bird?) Unfortunately I didn’t think to record the call, but after a bit of poking around on Xeno-Canto and Birds of North America, it seems this call is given in a number of scenarios: a young bird begging for food; hatch-year birds calling for adults when they are no longer present; and sometimes given by adults (typically females) as a contact call. I hear plenty of duetting and songs during the fall when birds are setting up territories nearby, but I’ve never heard this sound before. Eventually it flew off toward the golf course, but I could still hear the calls from a more distant perch, so plaintive and persistent. It was a surprising change from the pre-dawn screeching of my neighborhood Barn Owls, which have also been very vocal lately. Owl season.

Rebecca Coulter
SB

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