Many people would like to see an owl but very rarely do. It isn’t usually because owls are rare: in fact, Great Horned Owls and Screech Owls are quite common even in large cities like Toronto. It’s usually because the owls are hiding—not from humans in particular, but from other birds which hound them unmercifully trying to drive them away from their own territories. So I was pleased when shown a hiding Great Horned Owl once in May (although not quite as pleased as when I found a Saw-whet Owl all by myself by paying attention to the mob of angry songbirds it attracted.)
Why Is It So Difficult to Spot a Perched Great Horned Owl?
It’s fairly easy to find a perched Red-tailed Hawk. If you check the tops of trees and along power lines near fields or highways, they tend to be conspicuous. Great Horned Owls are also large birds but you rarely see them.
During the day, Great Horned Owls will often try to pick a perch where other birds don’t notice them. This owl in Mississauga had perched in a conifer, quite close to a collection of leaves that may be an old squirrels’ nest. The owl was not in silhouette from any direction and the collection of twigs and branches in front of it obscured its outline even more. Better eyes than mine were the ones that spotted the bird.
Why You Should Pay Attention to Crows and Other Raptors Making a Ruckus
While we were watching the owl, Crows found it too, and began cawing and diving at it. Then a Coopers Hawk arrived and watched from a nearby tree. It only called occasionally but it kept the owl in sight for several minutes.
Eventually, exasperated, the Great Horned Owl flew a few hundred metres further into the forest, hoping to find a more quiet roost.
It’s worth checking why Crows are making a fuss: It might help you find an owl or a Raven.
Feeling Guilty About Outing an Owl
We were not pleased with ourselves when the Crows found this particular Great Horned Owl. It’s likely they were attracted to the area by us and then found their target. We probably directly caused this owl to lose sleep and waste energy on an unnecessary flight. I haven’t gone looking for this bird again in part for this reason. Next time I see an owl, I will be sure to move along quickly to reduce the risk of bringing its enemies closer.
Another Large Raptor During the Same Ramble
Later on the same walk through the park, we met another raptor. This Red-tailed Hawk was hunting, though, not being mobbed. As usual, it was easy to spot, perched on top of a spruce. Red-tails also get mobbed but not because I’ve exposed them: they are already clearly visible to all the small songbirds who chase and bomb them.
Have you found an Owl unexpectedly? Were you able to move on before anything else found it? Please share your experiences with a comment.