By Tina Mitchell
Who’s awake? Me too! Who’s awake? Me too! In the bleak midwinter, this series of five rhythmic, muffled, slightly eerie hoots – all on one pitch – wafts through the darkness. The sentinel taking attendance is the Great Horned Owl. Measuring nearly 2 feet from head to tail, the Great Horned is the largest and most widespread owl in North America. Seen most commonly perched upright in trees or on power poles at dusk, this owl is heavily barred in brown and black. Feather tufts (not horns at all, despite its name) on its large head give rise to its rather inaccurate, albeit catchy, common name. Its enormous yellow eyes are so large that they cannot move in the owl’s head. However, the owl can swivel its head as much as 270 degrees to look in any direction. Since Great Horneds hunt at night, locating prey by sound is vital – and this owl has the requisite acute hearing. With a skull nearly as wide as its body, its ears are set relatively far apart and offset from each other a bit, allowing the raptor to triangulate the location of the tiniest sounds even more accurately.