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From the Garden Manager: Morikami’s Great Horned Owls

Over the past few weeks a little family has made its home in Morikami Park. Heather, our Resource Development Supervisor (who heads up the garden team) took some time to tell us a little about this amazing animal – the great horned owl. Read up on these stunning creatures below, but if you come to visit be sure to give them their space. They are wild animals after all, and they need the peace and quiet of this place just as much as you do.

Morikami’s Great Horned Owls

By Heather Grzybek, Resource Development Manager

We have the pleasure of having a family of great horned owls in Morikami Park.  Two juveniles are thriving in the slash pine (pinus elliottii) canopy away from danger.  The matriarch female has recently dismantled the nest, signaling the near approach of maturity for her young.

Great_Horned_Owls_in_Nest

Adult and juvenile Great Horned Owl

 

The great horned owl (bubo virginianus) is Florida’s largest owl, standing more than two feet tall.  They sit on a high tree or perch at night, and wait for their prey – rats, squirrels, and rabbits are some of what we have to offer for a tasty meal.  They swoop down and strike, rarely missing their target.  Great horned owls have incredible hearing and vision in low light.  Interestingly, their eyes are not moveable, so the owl must move its entire head as it cannot move the eye around in the eye socket.

Great Horned Owl

An adult Great Horned Owl

 

These owls are also some of the earliest to breed in North America, often breeding in late January or early February (maybe even a little earlier for our owls).  They select their life-long mates in December, and can be heard calling to each other in their low “whoo, whoo-hoo, whooo, whooo.”

Owls eat their prey and regurgitate whatever they can’t digest  – like bones and fur.  These “owl pellets” can be dissected to discover what their last meal was.  Can you tell what our birds ate yesterday?

Owl pellet

Some of the bones we found in one of the owl pellets near the nest.

 

For more information on our fine feathered tenants visit: Nature.org or AllAboutBirds.org

 

 

 

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One Response to From the Garden Manager: Morikami’s Great Horned Owls

  1. Bonnie Hunt Ford February 1, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    iA few years ago we had a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls that had a nest in a wooded area behind our home. We are 1 mile by air from the Morikami. A builder began building homes, scalped the earth but before they were close to our house and the nesting site I was able to stop the tree clearing until the baby owl could fly, the trees were cut down anyway but the baby managed to survived and the builder was stopped again until a Naturalist assured us they baby had enough fathers to fly and had flown away. The parents were guarding the site. We tried to walk our dog they attacked us, you can not hear them coming and it’s a scary site to look an owl coming straight at you. I’d like to think it might be one of the owls who had been in our area.

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