The Visitor

Our resident great gray owl showed up about suppertime the other day. To our surprise, instead of perching in a nearby tree or on the garden fence rail, he chose the ladder just outside our front window.

Ladder

Great grays put to rest the idea that owls only appear at night. These owls are often seen during the day, especially morning and late afternoon. This one also seems to enjoy the sun. His regular roosts were in shade, the ladder in full sun. At times he seemed to be sunbathing, occasionally closing his eyes and drifting off to wherever owls go when they doze.

A short nap

The facial disc — the largest of any raptor — funnels sound to the ears. Covered by feathers, the ears are asymmetrical — the left one is lower than the right. This unusual placement, together with the large facial disc, provides excellent directional hearing.

Watching the watched

Silhouette

Great grays eat mainly mice and voles, though one particularly wet and soggy spring a young one sat in our garden eating worms.

They have excellent hearing. One source says: “Great gray owls can locate the sound of a moving mouse under snow 18 inches deep at a distance of 50 yards or more … .”

Something moving in the grass?

Owls have feathered feet which protects them during the long cold winters.

Checking out the equipment

Each of the owl’s four toes is tipped with a long talon or claw. The outer front toe is able to swivel from front to back. When flying and sometimes when perching three toes point forward and one back. This owl sat with just two facing front.

Talons

Take off

Back on his regular perch in a nearby poplar, the great gray blends in well. The species name, nebulosa, means misty or foggy, probably referring to the feathers that help camouflage it.

Camouflage


Great gray owl   Strix nebulosa

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14 thoughts on “The Visitor

  1. Aren’t you the lucky one to have such a marvelous visitor? I was enthralled with one of the nest cams that features a Great Gray Owl’s nest. There are YouTube highlights if you’re interested. Here’s one of the last (of four) owlets fledging: https://youtu.be/w4jFozqOhvw It was such fun to watch them grow.

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    1. Lucky, oh yes! Sharing our woods with wild lives is special beyond words. Thanks for the owl can link, Gunta — I was surprised to learn that they leave so early. And quite a drop!

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      1. Glad to hear that all 4 made it out. Some birds lay an egg and a spare — if the first doesn’t make it, hopefully the second will. Sadly sometimes the second one is left to starve or is killed by its nest mate. It’s a jungle out there.

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    1. Right spot, right time. My husband hadn’t finished painting the house so he left the ladder in place for the day. Not long after, Big Gray showed up. Are owls curious? He’s a regular visitor to our yard. I wondered if having a chance to get a closer look at us prompted him to land there. Or maybe he just wanted to soak up some rays. 🙂

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  2. There’s so much here that I didn’t know, in terms of ears and feathered feet and such. The photos are magnificent, and my envy level is nearly as great. 🙂 I’m still waiting to have a good look at an owl, but I think I’m going to have to spend more time away from the coastal plain.

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    1. They are magnificent and awe-inspiring. Because of their seemingly trusting”nature, they’ve been targets of “hunters,” shot dead at they sat in the open in daylight on fence posts or tree limbs. I hope as we learn more about these incredible birds that encountering one in the wild will be an opportunity for wonder not target practice.

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