Great Horned Owl – What Do They Eat?

The adult owls and the owlets appeared in our back yard at about 9:45 PM for three nights in a row. The adults hunted and the owlets begged for food.

It didn’t take very long for the adult to serve up dinner on top of the large rock in the field. Two owlets quickly joined the adult. They started to tear the prey apart.

The other adult was calling – hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo – nearby but out of sight, possibly feeding the third owlet. The owl on the rock would respond to the call by turning its head in the direction the sound was coming from.

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel

What do Great Horned Owls eat? From what I’ve read, our Owls might eat Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, Northern Pocket Gophers, mice, skunks, squirrels, crows, birds, Little Brown Bats and large insects. Rabbits would also be on the menu if the Owl was hunting quite a bit further afield.

Owls leave evidence of their meals in the form of pellets that they regurgitate. One or more of our owls thoughtfully leaves these pellets at the base of the spruce tree near our front door.

This ‘Bone Yard’ has yielded a wealth of information, though I don’t have the expertise or desire to try to reconstruct the prey!

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The paper clip in each photo shows the size of the pellets and the bones. (The paper clip is about 4.5 by 1 cm or 1 7/8 by 3/8 in.)

If you have a grandson who wants to dissect an owl pellet, my advice is to wait until nature ‘removes’ most of the hair and stuff like that. Take it from me, baking (sterilizing) a ‘newer’ foil-wrapped pellet in the oven for half an hour is a smelly project.

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