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Delaware Wildlife

Great Horned Owl

During the winter months, Delaware may look frozen and frosty, but love is in the air, literally, for Great Horned Owls. That is the time of year when many can be found at the Conservancy’s nature preserves in Delaware. 

According to an article in Audubon Magazine, February is a prime time for when male Great Horned Owls hoot, swell their white bibs and bow around any females they can attract. If the male attracts a potential mate’s attention, they bow and hoot at each other. Many remain mates for life.

How romantic is that?

“Indeed, Great Horned owls nest at the Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve and at the Ponders Tract during winter,” says John Graham, the Conservancy’s Land Steward in Delaware. “Given the size and habitat types of our Milford Neck and Middleford North nature preserves, I’m confident that they nest there too although it hasn’t been officially confirmed.”

Listen For Yourself: The Great Horned Owl’s advertisement call is a classic hoo – h’HOO – hoo – hoo. Want to hear it first-hand? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has it here.

While these nocturnal birds can be elusive, winter is an ideal time to try and spy them, with leaves gone from the deciduous trees. During this time, Great Horned owls take over abandoned hawk nests or tree cavities instead of starting nests from scratch. The best time for a sighting is during the pre-dawn and dusk hours. At the very least, it may be possible to hear the calls of courtship.  

“While Great Horned owls are a healthy and hardy species, they represent another reason why it’s important to protect chunks of forests with nice big cavity trees,” adds Graham. “Then the courting can begin.”

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