Whoooo Said That?

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)
Though it's the middle of winter, January is the month when great-horned owls court and nest in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Their courtship is such a noisy affair it can't be ignored if you're near it.

When I was about five years old my whole family was roused one night when an owl hooted in the big tree outside my window.  While I wrung my hands and my two-year-old brother cried, my dad went from window to window, trying to see the source of the disturbance.  My fear turned to fascination when he said, "It's an owl."

Oh boy!  Where?

I don't remember if there were two owls that night but if I heard it again I'd listen for both.  The male and female serenade each other, described in this excerpt from W.D. Snodgrass's poem, Owls:
"  There: the dark male, low
And booming, tremoring the whole valley.
There: the female, resolving, answering
High and clear, restoring silence."
(This poem was featured on The Writer's Almanac and is well worth reading.  Click here for the entire poem.)

The owl serenade builds up to mating, and then to nests, eggs and babies.  They court in winter because it takes so long -- about three and a half months -- from nest to fully fledged owlet.

Click here for a male and female duet (with lots of crickets in the background).

Click here for the sound of three owls hooting.

Now that I know, I won't be afraid if I hear them hooting.

Whoooo said that?  It's owls in love.


(photo of a great-horned owl by Chuck Tague.  The owl's white throat feathers are showing because he's hooting.  Read more about this owl on Chuck Tague's blog.)

2 thoughts on “Whoooo Said That?

  1. If you would like to hear owls, you might want to sign up for one of the Full Moon hikes through Boyce Mayview Park. There is one in January and one in February. They specifically listen for owls at this time of year. I think I went on the February one last year and we did hear a great-horned owl, but did not get to see him. For more information see: http://www.regionaleec.org/cms.php?SectionID=2

  2. I went to the hike yesterday. Didnt really hear much except for a very restless group of boy-scouts hiking with us. But a nice hike in the snow indeed.

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