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.
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.
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?