Great Horned Owl – A Powerful Raptor

bird feeder plans, great horned owl, bird of prey, raptor, dog, pets

Great Horned Owl - Large Bird of Prey

The owl….  makes most of us think of the “wise old owl”, Halloween, and hoot-hoot. Not me, for I have seen the Great Horned Owl up close.  He is another bird which takes care of his own bird feeder plans. (pun intended)   The Great Horned Owl is a huge bird with a really large beak and big feet with long, thick black talons. One evening just at dusk our daughter and I left the house in the car and we passed a neighbor’s mailbox as I was slowing to stop at the intersection. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something, but wasn’t sure just what. I put the car into reverse and backed up and we were staring face to face at eye level with an owl that had to have been two feet tall standing on the mailbox.

He didn’t move, he just stared, and I was glad the windows were up for I wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t have come into the car after us. I had seen him in the weeks before high in a pine tree near our home. I could tell he was large, but up close he was simply frightening.

He was so alarming, I found myself sharing the story with friends. One of those friends had raised and studied these owls back in the eighties. When I described this creature, she immediately knew exactly what I was talking about and shared a little tip with me. She said, “You do know his beak is so strong, he can snap a broom handle in two.”  Then she added, “I wouldn’t let Minnie outside unless you are right there with her.”

Minnie was our miniature dachshund weighing less than ten pounds. We had nicknamed her minnie-rat, because she was about the size of a wharf rat. I had already been thinking the same thing, and she confirmed it. Needless to say, Minnie was always accompanied outside after that and I always stood close enough to her hoping our neighborhood raptor wouldn’t be brave enough to come down with me standing there.

Read on to see what is going on in New Mexico according to the News website,


When Giant Owls Attack: Dog Owners Blame Birds For Death

November 11, 2011

There would be nothing so horrifying as looking in your backyard only to see giant owls swooping up your pet and carrying him off. This scary scene seems to be playing out in reality in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But, are these pet owners blaming owls for something they had nothing to do with?

In the cases of the dead and injured pets, one woman heard a “yelp” from her puppy before he disappeared from the backyard. He was sadly found dead two days later by neighbors. Another dog owner found claw marks on the back of her poodle. She believes the huge owls tried to grab her dog for a wire-haired meal.

According to a zookeeper at Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, the largest owl species in the United States is the Great Grey Owl, which can have a wingspan of up to 5 feet. That is indeed a large bird and one no one wants to be attacked by. These giant owls usually keep the rodent population down ( good thing!), but they have also been known to eat any small animal they can carry away. The really creepy thing is that the owls are silent and stealth-like when they approach their prey. Their next meal doesn’t even know what happened until they are in the owl’s clutches and being carried off to be eaten.

Rough stuff, I know, but sometimes forewarned is forearmed. The large owls can definitely pick up a small dog or cat. I would echo the warning my friend gave me years ago not to let the smaller pets outside by themselves if you’ve seen one of these large owls in the area.

Read the entire article on this bird of prey here…

Have you ever been exposed these creatures and this problem? If so, please share with the rest of us. Thanks. You may want to read a recent post of ours about another raptor, the Cooper’s Hawk.

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Birds Of Prey — It May Be Natural, But It Sure Is Ugly

Just the other day, my good friend and bridge buddy, was telling me about the shrieking animals she heard outside.  Thinking something was happening to her cat, or maybe her cat was after some animal, she ran out front only to find her cat in the corner on the front porch and blood and feathers all over the driveway and mailbox by the street.  She described the blood in a line across the drive way like the bleeding bird had been carried away.

Never experiencing this myself, I said, did the cat get the bird?

bird feeder plans, Cooper's Hawk, bird of prey

Cooper's Hawk, Blood on His Breast and On His Beak --- Finishing the Kill

No, she said…  it was a hawk.

A hawk?  Don’t they eat field mice, snakes, and squirrels?

Oh, they’ll eat other birds too, she said, and he was sitting the pine tree across the street when I came out.  It looked like he snagged the bird on the mailbox and flew away with his catch.  That hawk has been in the trees around the pond over there for a long time and this isn’t the first time we’ve found feathers and lots of blood like this.  It’s what it looks like after they attack.

Next, thanks to this article from, those of us less familiar with this natural occurrence, will have our eyes opened about nature’s birds of prey, where they roam and what they hunt.  Our favorite backyard birds may be the Cooper’s Hawk’s next dinner.

Raptor Racks Up A Kill

The rarely-seen Cooper’s hawk hunts songbirds in an East Cobb neighborhood.

By Linda Rehkopf

I wasn’t expecting to hear the shrieks and shrills outside my home office window just before dusk one afternoon last week. Based on the sounds, I assumed it was a cat-on-squirrel fight, or a squirrel-on-squirrel fight.

I was wrong.

A Cooper’s hawk thrashed on the ground in the clearing between the house and the hardwood forest beyond. I hoped it had a chipmunk in its talons (nothing personal; the chipmunks’ cuteness factor lost me when they tunneled through my yard, which killed a lot of mature shrubs, and led to drainage issues).

Whatever the hawk had on the ground beneath its wingspan, wasn’t giving up easily. But the large bird extended its wings and fully covered its prey. Its powerful talons had a tight hold. Occasionally the predator tumbled and rolled, then righted itself. The death cry was heartbreaking. Through binoculars I finally caught sight of the prey: a red breasted woodpecker.

All that remained after the battle were some pin-striped, downy feathers scattered among the leaves.

Even in East Cobb, where habitats are lost to development, hawks still circle overhead. My neighborhood of woods and streams is prime hawk territory. We’ve had nesting red-tailed hawks for several years. This beneficial hunter takes out the chipmunks and other rodents, along with an occasional snake.

The Cooper’s hawk, though, is a relative newcomer to my patch of ecosystem. While not endangered, this species is in decline so isn’t seen frequently. A Cooper’s hawk eats other birds, and doesn’t seem to discriminate. If a backyard feeder is popular among songbirds, a Cooper’s hawk might decide to hang around.

I’ve seen one from time to time sitting in low branches of tall evergreens, but have never watched it hunt or kill prey. Basically, the larger bird crushed the smaller one to death. My reaction – curiosity tinged with horror – wasn’t uncommon.

Monteen McCord, who runs a raptor rescue and education center in Cherokee County, said sights like what I witnessed are natural and necessary.

“Backyard bird feeders/watchers grimace every time a raptor motors through and snatches their songbird off of their bird feeder,” McCord said in an email. “When they hunt, their job is to keep the gene pool clean and go after the ones that are damaged, slow, or just not paying attention.”

The woodpecker, about half the size of the hawk, probably had it coming, in other words.

“With a first year mortality rate of about 80 percent, most of the raptors have already starved to death,” McCord said. “As the weather gets colder, their metabolism speeds up to keep the body system going, thus requiring more calories. Combine that with a lower prey base in the winter, and you have natural selection at its finest; only the strong will survive through the winter and pass those evolutionary genes onto the next generation.”

To learn more about raptors, including several species of owls and hawks common to East Cobb and the region, a good resource is the slim book, Common Birds of Atlanta, by Jim Wilson and Anselm Atkins. The volume contains color photographs to aid bird identification.

Read the entire article here to learn more about birds of prey…

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