Despite its name, the Great Horned Owl doesn’t really possess horns. Rather, it has tufts of feathers on each side of its head, resembling horns or ears.
The bird’s feathers are gray to brown, except for the ones on its neck, which are white. They have a wingspan of around 153 cm and weigh just three pounds (1.4 kg).
Owls don’t have teeth for chewing, so they eat their prey all at once. They depend mostly on small animals and other birds and are the only animals that include skunks in their regular diet.
Their hearing sense is so sharp that they can recognize a mouse moving on a twig from a distance of 23 meters (75 feet).
Owls possess such big eyes that they cannot move them back and forth like humans. Rather, they need to turn their heads. They can turn their heads up to 270 degrees (a three-quarter turn) to see in other directions.
Great Horned Owls’ conservation status is stable. There has been some hostility toward great horned owls because they tended to prey upon poultry. However, it is also known to control rodent populations, which is useful to humans. Here’s what you need to know about feathers.
About Great Horned Owl Feathers
Great Horned Owl feathers are entirely too soft to offer any type of air resistance at all. They serve two primary purposes: one is definitely to protect the bird from cold, and the other is to give it a soft but soundless flight.
The Owl’s feathers look more like a fluffy blanket, perfect for giving insulation. But the size and texture of a feather are just slightly different in that the main wing feathers are distinct from its tail feathers.
Furthermore, if the owl’s flight feathers are broken or injured, as happens all too frequently, the bird will be more likely to die because of starvation because if they can’t fly, they can’t hunt. However, there’s way more to learn about Great Horned Owl feathers.
The Great Horned Owl is completely coated with feathers. There’s not a single body portion that is visible or naked, not even the Owl’s ears.
The horn-shaped tuft feathers are not truly its ears. They have nothing to do with the bird’s hearing sensation. There are specific feathers that cover the bird’s ear apertures. These hornlike feathers aren’t worthless at all. They will transmit sound waves into the ear.
The feathers near the Owl’s ears are different from the rest of its body feathers. These feathers are just as opposed to the insulating feathers; they aren’t smooth. They do not make any kind of resistance even to the sound waves. In fact, the sound waves propagate through the feathers as if there is none.
All feathers on the Owl’s body are the facial disk or fluffy save feathers. The feathers near the facial disk are fluffy only at the bottom. They are designed to block out dirt particles and waste from the ears.
The facial disk feathers are organized in a bowl, thus offering a satellite dish platform for sound waves to concentrate towards the bird’s ears. This indicates why owls can have exceptional hearing senses.
Importance of Their Feathers in Flight
Unlike Falcon feathers, Great Horned Owl feathers are not aerodynamic, but they are nonetheless accommodated for soundless flight. That’s right. Their feathers are so created that they do not make any sound even if it gets near their prey.
The mysterious coloration of the bird’s feathers allows them to camouflage into the lush greenery they nestled against. They are not only waterproof but are extremely smooth, just like a piece of fabric.
Let’s talk about the main feathers. The outside boundaries of a feather are serrated, creating no disturbance whatsoever during flight. Ultimately, the owl can make a silent flight. This, in turn, addresses these birds as a sneak hunters as they do not wish to surprise their prey.
Most birds are thought to make much more noise when flying because their feathers rub between each other. But that is different for Owl’s feathers; they rub against each other, but their texture is just too soft to produce a noise.
Famous among great horned owl feathers are primary feathers. These primary feathers are perhaps the strongest, and there’s a great reason for this too. These feathers are necessary for the bird’s flight, so much so that if any of them are damaged, then the Owl is unlikely to fly.
These primary feathers don’t seem to have a strong leading edge (like all other birds) to produce huge air turbulence. There are gaps among the edges, which ultimately break up the air turbulence into little turbulence. Thus, the Owl can manage to fly like a ghost.
Like other species, Great Horned Owls regularly replace their feathers in a process called molting. It generally takes place once a year, beginning after their young have fledged and the need for their resources are lower.
The method follows up to 3 months, through which feathers are shed and regrow over the entire body in a natural pattern. However, it’s a slow process, keeping this aggressive and powerful bird in an aviary until the feathers redevelop.
This molting pattern essentially enables a few of the primary or secondary flying feathers to be shed at a time to decrease the impact of the molt on the Owl’s flying and hunting experiences.
Their ear-tufts, also known as plumicorns or feather tufts, are showcase feathers and have nothing to do with hearing. It is used to display the state of mind, such as happiness, anger, and fear. They also support them to protect them from predators.
Not every owl species has feather tufts. While not possessing true ear-tufts, most Owls can move their feathers above the eyes in an outwards direction, resembling little ear-tufts. It is often conducted in response to a predator or when the bird is threatened.
5 Fun Facts About Great Horned Owls
- Great Horned Owls are one of North America’s most widespread and largest owl species.
- Though widespread, great horned owls are seldom observed due to their nocturnal habits and unique camouflage.
- Instead of actual “horns,” they have feather tufts for territorial displays.
- Great Horned Owls’ ears are simple holes in their heads below their feathers.
- The Owl’s flight feathers have soft edges that enable it to fly soundlessly and ambush prey.
Are Great Horned Owls Dangerous?
All kinds of owls, including great horned, have been known to charge people when defending their infants, mates, or territories. Often targets include unsuspecting hikers and joggers. Usually, victims escape without any harm, and deaths from owl charges are very rare.
Where are Great Horned Owls Found?
Great Horned Owls are docile birds and exist from the Arctic to South America. They are at home in suburbia as well as in farmlands and woods. Northern groups migrate in winter, but maximum live permanently in more temperate climates.
What Sense Do Owls Use the Most?
Hearing! Unlike vultures, owls are a kind of bird that does not depend on scent to hunt. Rather, they apply their keen sense of hearing and eyesight to get their prey.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
- Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription$10.00 / month
- Kid & Adult Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $72.00 sign-up fee
- Kids Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $19.00 sign-up fee
Bird Watching Binoculars
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here. Check out the kid binoculars.