Friday, December 23, 2016 Daytime Great Horned Owl!

Seward, Alaska

A friend called me shortly after dawn, which though it sounds early, was officially 10:02 am. A GREAT HORNED OWL was sitting on top of a dead animal, either a feral rabbit or a cat in a neighbor’s yard in Forest Acres. Ravens were swooping down and pecking at it, Magpies were going nuts, and a Bald Eagle cried out from its perch in a nearby spruce.

I got there as fast as I could. The Eagle still sat in the spruce tree, but the Ravens and Magpies had found something better to do. I figured I missed the show. Luckily, my friend arrived to point it out.

The Owl resembled a short stump with its dark coloration and mottled feather pattern. Its “ears”, two long feather tufts, stood erect, ruffled by the breeze. The Owl sat quietly on top of its prize, all fluffed up, looking up and side to side. When its head swiveled at least 180 to look directly behind, it was easy to see why people think an owl can turn its head all the way around.

Eventually, a Raven returned and circled above the Owl who followed its flight carefully, beak open in a threatening gesture, white chin flashing. This fierce predator was not about to abandon its prey. A dense pattern of tracks from the bounding prey and owl wing tip and footprints covered the snow around the triumphant Owl. What a treat to see an Owl in the daytime, astride its recent kill!

Just as we were wondering if a 3# owl could even fly with this breakfast, the Owl had enough of the paparazzi and abruptly flew off to the north without it. No other birds dove in to claim the prize, so we checked it out. It was a full-grown, feral rabbit after all, tan and white. The Owl had only just begun to enjoy breakfast when dawn and discovery interrupted.

We checked back later and there was no sign of the rabbit. Perhaps the watchful Eagle hauled it off, a hefty load even for him but easy pickings!

I hope the Owl will feast tonight in private. The long nights are to his advantage now and the days, however short, are not his friend.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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