WC’s house is the home to two owls, a Boreal Owl and a Great Grey Owl. They aren’t a huge inconvenience, once you get used to the frozen mice thawing in the refrigerator. But last night for Alaska Bird Observatory’s Owlapalooza, WC and Mrs. WC hosted two visiting owls from Anchorage, Gus the Great Horned Owl and Ghost, a Snowy Owl.
Gus went into the deck owl mew. Ghost stayed in a kennel in the house. At about full darkness, Gus started calling. And called all night. About 1:00 AM, Gus started getting a response. In fact, as things lightened up this morning and the concert continued, it was apparent he had called in a female Great Horned Owl. Gus is a stud muffin.
An elderly stud muffin; Bird TLC reports he was probably born in 1991, which makes him a grey beard in Great Horned Owl years.
But the lady he called in was beautiful.
What’s not like about this pretty lady? What’s not to like about Gus, if he can call in a girl like this?
Of course, they were calling (you can’t properly call an owl’s call a “song”) all night. Loudly. In Great Horned Owls, calling is a pretty serious physical effort: you lean far forward, raise your tail, fluff out your white bib and let go a series of hoots.
Birds of North America describes it as a “‘solemn, deep-toned hooting’ with ‘great carrying power . . . likened . . . to the sound of a distant foghorn, soft, somewhat tremulous, and subdued hoot, with little or no accent,’ of 3–6 notes.” The female’s vocalizations are distinctly higher-pitched than the male. And occasionally Gus and his girl sang together, harmonizing, which was utterly charming.
Over the course of an entire night, the charm wore off a bit. WC can only wonder what the neighbors must think.
Inspection this morning showed the deck mew had been chewed up pretty good, from the outside. Great Horned Owls usually breed in late January or early February at these latitudes. Unseasonable owl lust? Or territorial defense? Anchorage’s owls seducing Fairbanks owls? WC will let readers project their attitudes on the story. Write your own ending.
But Gus will spend his second and last night in Fairbanks in his kennel in the garage. If only to let WC get some sleep.
9 thoughts on “Gus the Stud Muffin”
Wow! Startlingly beautiful! How did you come by all this owls and why are they being held captive? Were they injured?
All were injured, didn’t recover well enough to survive in the wild, and elected to pursue careers as educational birds under the supervision of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rather than be euthanized.
This is a fine, timely blog entry of yours, because from where I write, it also appears there is something going on with Great Horned Owls this year. Like your Fairbanks/Anchorage blind-daters, our owls, too, have been courting up a storm for quite bit more than a month now – at least since early August. And we watched our local female about five nights ago position herself in just that same neck puffed/butt out pose when responding to her beau. Great stuff – but why, oh why, this early?
So are two of the owls in your care permanently? Do you do rehab? Sorry for all the curiosity, but after finding that one in my water trough, I’ve become rather intrigued with them. Our neighbor found a youngster standing on the ground making a clicking noise. He must have been sick because he allowed them to capture him. The took him to a wildlife vet, but sadly, he didn’t live.
Earl, the Great Grey Owl, and Yoda, the Boreal Owl, are in Mrs. WC’s permanent care, under a permit from USFWS. We do not rehab. Both owls are required to appear in a minimum of 12 educational programs a year under the USFWS permit. Neither is releasable. Earl can barely fly; Yoda has cataracts and a leg issue.
Most educational bird permittees are always looking for helpers. WC urges you to spend some time as a volunteer before getting birds yourself, if you are inclined that way.
It’s hell finding housesitters, by the way.
I’m a heck of a animal caretaker having worked for vets for a number of years while I was in college. Sadly, I live in California. I have the same problem finding competent caregivers for my animals when I need to be gone. The snow boots on the female owl are so lovely. Is that a year-round adornment? Any pictures of Earl and Yoda?
There will be a post later this winter on Earl and Yoda, and their strategies for surviving an Alaska winter.
I forgot to post my thanks for this post WC. I once had a short acquaintance with a saw-what owl. For several weeks this tiny and curious owl would appear in the tree at our bedroom window in the middle of the night to watch me tend to our infant daughter.
Gus and Ghost appreciate the generous hospitality provided by Mr. & Mrs. WC this past weekend. Hopefully both are getting plenty of sleep now.
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