North Carolina is home to six species of owls—each with its own distinctive appearance and “call” sound. But it is the quintessential of owls, the Great Horned Owl, with their long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, that is the standard bearer for all owls. It is the wise old creature of our children’s stories including Winnie the Pooh and the one depicted in movies and even TV ads. It is the Great Horned Owl whose ghostly call of “hoo” that is the “hoot or sound that has become the classic associated with owls.
And the trees at Applewood Manor are home to a family of these magnificent creatures. So don’t be surprised when you are serenaded to sleep by the “whoooooo” call of courting male and female owls.
Great Horned Owls mate for life; nevertheless, in the fall the pair begin a courtship display, loudly calling to each other. Even after mating season, they continue to call each other as they raise their young in the spring. These magnificent creatures are powerful and fearless. They range in height from 18 to 25 inches, weigh from two to five and a half pounds and have a wingspan from 40 to 60 inches.
Their nocturnal nature and elusive reputation make sightings of them difficult. And most people never set eyes on these great birds. Fortunately, the Applewood Manor owl family is more people friendly than most. It isn’t uncommon for guests to be treated to an appearance—especially near the kitchen porch where juvenile Great Horned Owls have been known to visit in apparent hope that they will be rewarded with a thrown scrap of food. Not that they need any help from humans. Owls are quite capable of feeding themselves. While they usually munch on small meals, like frogs and mice, with their super strength, they can also take down large prey, like rabbits. They have a grip strength that requires 28 pounds of force to release, and a beak designed to make quick work of their prey.
Even if our birds fail to venture out, you can go in search of them. The easiest way to spot owls is not by looking, but by listening. Their haunting hoots carry a long way. Once you hear the hooting, look carefully in likely trees, and you may be able to see the distinctive profile of the owl, and don’t be surprised if the wise old owl is staring back at you!