Owl never leave you

Owl never leave you

By Rod Myers, Naturalist

In my last article, I talked about raptors in Rockford. The best and biggest part of the article dealt with Scott Caring’s experiences with hawks and owls this winter. A couple of the incidents, however, occurred in years past. The witnessing of a goshawk killing a crow in Aldeen Park was one, and the mentioning of great horned owls mating on Scott’s roof was another.

So in the tradition of Valentine’s Day, I will elaborate on the great horned owls that were frisky on Scott’s roof. At times, it appeared there were three owls involved in the parliamentary hanky panky, but it all started with a single hooting.

It was a balmy late December night at the Caring house. The binoculars were hung by the chimney with care, and snow covered the ground as a Christmas joy seemed to hang in the moisture-saturated air. Scott Caring, always on the alert for wildlife day or night, thought he’d heard a great horned owl calling. He threw open the shutters, the window, and answered the owl in a flash. Six slightly monotone hoots came from Scott’s throat. He gave the male call, which is higher than the female’s. The male owl answered, then moved closer to the house to defend his territory from what he thought was another male great horned owl.

A few minutes later, Scott could hear the owl on the roof; he heard it move down near the eave spout above the window Scott had called out from. Scott moved away from the window; he didn’t want the bird to fly into it, and he stopped hooting when he heard the real bird on the roof. Minutes later, the owl was gone. It was the breeding season, and the male owl probably flew back to a mate. Realizing this, Scott moved back to the window and mimicked the call of a female.

Almost instantly, another owl headed toward the roof. Thanks to the yard light, Scott discovered it was a female because of her larger size. She landed with a thud and moved toward the eave spout to peer in the window. Then the male joined the female on the roof, but the female flew to the picnic table. The male followed, and he chased her on the table top for several minutes until the female took flight around the yard. He chased her; they were definitely in a mating frenzy that culminated on the roof, the first time, anyway. They chased each other by foot on the roof until one caught up for about 10 seconds of skyrockets plus. After copulation, the birds flew to the picnic table and mated again, then repeated the act in the snow. The female took a break by flying to the neighbor’s yard to check out the Christmas lights. She was transfixed by the flashing and tried to gain a better perspective by bobbing her head and twisting her upper body to compensate for the eyesockets that don’t move in owls. The owl snapped her beak, making repetitive clacking sounds that she hoped would frighten the gods of electricity.

But soon, both owls were on Scott’s roof again for another volley.

Bet you’re wondering when that third owl’s going to show up. Well, he’s been there since the beginning, in the house, anyway. Hoo, hoo-oo, hoo-oo-oo!

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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