I’ve found a great horned owl feather!! 😀
I think this is super awesome, (and I think you guys do as well) but besides that fact, this means even more to me than what you guys would think. In case you are a specifications person, the length of the feather is 11 inches. In comparison to a coke bottle, you get how large it really is…
I have to say, it was very interesting looking back seeing how the second I identified the feather how much new information I now knew about my woods. Let me show you what I mean…
After researching bird of prey feathers, I came to the conclusion that it was a hawk feather. I kept researching, thinking it was maybe a Cooper’s hawk feather, but after awhile, I became unsure if I was researching the right bird. I decided to research owls next. I was looking at pictures, pointing out how the feathers looked, until all of a sudden, I was looking at the feather I now owned. “Oh my gosh!!” I audibly said. After I said that I had many thoughts going through my head. Among these were: this is awesome, holy crap, that means there are mice in my woods, oh my gosh, and others…
After I calmed down, I went through a mental checklist of what this meant. I’ll show you this checklist that I’ve been trying to complete.
- Find direct evidence of mice in my woods.
- Find direct evidence of owls in my woods.
- Find evidence of mice homes.
- Find owl pellets indicating where the owl lives/territory boundaries.
Now, the evidence of mice in my checklist is probably a little misleading to you since I’m talking about great horned owls. However, above I showed you my mental checklist. And I have to say, it was interesting to see how my mind thought after I identified the feather. And the reason I find it interesting, is because I can check off a lot of those points above. Since I have direct proof that great horned owls exist in my woods, that means they have to eat something. Here is some information that I have copied from All About Birds.org, all credit of this quote to them.
“Great Horned Owls have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors. Their prey range in size from tiny rodents and scorpions to hares, skunks, geese, and raptors. They eat mostly mammals and birds—especially rabbits, hares, mice, and American Coots, but also many other species including voles, moles, shrews, rats, gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, marmots, prairie dogs, bats, skunks, house cats, porcupines, ducks, loons, mergansers, grebes, rails, owls, hawks, crows, ravens, doves, and starlings. They supplement their diet with reptiles, insects, fish, invertebrates, and sometimes carrion. Although they are usually nocturnal hunters, Great Horned Owls sometimes hunt in broad daylight. After spotting their prey from a perch, they pursue it on the wing over woodland edges, meadows, wetlands, open water, or other habitats. They may walk along the ground to stalk small prey around bushes or other obstacles.”
I have seen of that list rabbits, hares, chipmunks, squirrels, bats, cats, crows, and ravens, so there should be plenty for the owl to eat 🙂 .To sum that quote up, I now have indirect evidence of mice and voles in my woods. The reason I know this is because, besides the feather, I also have several sightings in the neighborhood of foxes and coyotes. Foxes and coyotes will also prey upon mice and voles. And I do have the types of biomes/environments that would be able to support mice and voles, so there is a lot of indirect evidence of mice in my woods. Along with that, upon analyzing some (coyote I believe…) scat I came upon one day, I found an extremely small skull next to protruding out of the scat. I didn’t pick it up for obvious reasons, but I think it may have possibly been a mouse skull.
So, after finding the feather, after doing so much animal research, I thought it was cool how my head went, “Oh, I found this feather. That means there’s a healthy mice population, which also confirms my suspicions about foxes in my woods. This also means there are probably several snakes in our woods.” So I just wanted to share that with y’all! This may just be my own conclusion, but the way I thought through that is probably how a biologist would think after finding new evidence of a species he’s been researching. Since I’m in high school I’ve been thinking lately about job opportunities in the future. Field biologist has crossed my mind several times, but I would need to do a lot more research on the job before I came to any conclusions.
Keep calm and track on!