Whooo’s Out There?

Great horned owl (photo by Alan Wolf via Flickr, CC license)

What’s that noise in the backyard tonight? Who’s out there?

In autumn in Pennsylvania, great horned owls (Bubo viginianus) call to establish territory and court their mates. Their family time is coming soon. She’ll lay eggs before any other raptor species, sometimes as early as December.

Listen for their 5-note syncopated call: “hu-hu-Hoo HOO HOO

Great horned owl (recording by Ted Floyd, xeno canto XC344952)

If you’re lucky you’ll hear them “sing” a duet.  (Turn up your speakers to hear both birds in this recording.  The male’s voice is the lower one.)

Great horned owl duet (recorded by Daniel Parker, xeno canto XC144359)

Anywhere you live in North America, if there are woods or fields nearby great horned owls are there year round.

Range map of great horned owl (map from IUCN via Wikimedia Commons, purple color means year-round)

Sometimes they make very odd noises.

Great horned owl wak-wak calls, Pasadena, CA (recorded by Lance A.M. Benner on xeno canto XC337290)

Whooo’s out there? 

‘Tis the season for great horned owls.

(photo by Alan Wolf via Flickr, Creative Commons license, audio from Xeno Canto, click on the captions to hear the originals.)

6 thoughts on “Whooo’s Out There?

  1. What a coincidence! I saw one this morning flying through the back yard, carrying something large. I heard it calling at dawn a few days ago.

  2. Strangest call of all is the blood-curdling scream juvenile Great-horneds make. It’ll scare the daylights out of anyone! I’ve heard it!

  3. Heard a Great Horned owl at 0445 in my Beechview neighborhood, first time here. Screech owls have been common but I wonder if the “big guys” will push them away.

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