Hoot’s Behavior while Give a Hoot, the male, is being mobbed by several crows…
On Sunday, 01-23-22, I went out to look for the owls again. The temperature was 5 degrees F with a slight breeze, although in the woods it was very comfortable. When I got to the Great Horned Owl territory I saw Give a Hoot, the male, perched high up in a large oak tree. Give a Hoot is always on guard, so I never approach him by walking directly toward him. I took a few steps and looked up again and now I see Hoot, the female. They are maybe 5 feet from one another in the same tree.
Hoot is always laid back, so I only have to be concerned with Give a Hoot while trying to get in position to set up my tripod. I got to a spot and began setting up my tripod. He actually moved a little which would provide me with a better photograph. I had just put my camera on my fluid head and was about to take my first photo when he turned around on the branch and flew off. Hoot woke up and looked off in the distance, so that told me that someone was in the area. It wasn’t long before I heard lots of noise coming from two people. Once I heard the noise I took my camera off my tripod so it wasn’t as obvious what I was doing.
Once they were gone I moved my camera onto Hoot who has already back to sleep. While waiting for her to wake up I took a couple video clips of her sleeping.
While waiting for her to wake up several crows began making a lot of noise nearby. I turned the video back on since they probably spotted Give a Hoot. I could see several crows and finally I spotted Give a Hoot about 35 yards away. They were mobbing him for several minutes. Hoot did some calls that sound like territorial calls, but they are more of a contact call with Give a Hoot. These calls are made without the forward leaning posture of the typical territorial calls. I watched her make her second call that started out as a clucky chitter or maybe a staccato Hoot, then proceeding to do a call similar to the territorial call. Again, without the normal forward leaning posture. She made a few more calls before the crows left Give a Hoot alone.
A couple crows spotted me and began to circle overhead. Hoot looked upward and followed them around with her eyes while moving her around, but they never spotted her. Eventually the crows got bored and left the area.
Hoot did some grooming and yawning before she fell back to sleep, so I just waited for her to wake up again. I was getting a little hungry while waiting and I had an energy bar in my pocket. While opening the wrapper that made more noise than I expected because of the cold and it also was very quiet in the woods. Hoot who had her head cocked slightly upwards with her eyes closed sleeping, but when she heard the noise from the wrapper she slowly move her head slightly downwards toward me and barely opened her eyes that appeared only as silts. She then slowly moved her head back in the same position prior to the wrapper noise and went back to sleep.
Sometime afterwards Hoot made another call to Give a Hoot who returned her call. I didn’t have the video going when she made this call, but when I turned it on she was alert and looking in his direction doing some closed mouth conversational chitter calls with him. The call is so soft that it can’t be heard, but you can see her body jerking while she is talking to him.
Since Hoot was already awake she started to actively begin hunting. While I had the video running she began to focus on something on the ground to her left. She began to move her head around to zero in on her possible next meal.
She flew from her perch and landed in another tree close by. I watched her awhile to see if she was going to grab a meal before I moved my tripod get get a better view of her. While I was photographing her she was still very interested in something on the ground that was slightly behind her. She moved again before I decided to leave.
The light was fading fast so I packed up my gear and went looking for Benny the Barred Owl. I quickly walked some of his area, but I didn’t find him.
While walking around in Benny’s area I heard Hoot and Give a Hoot calling back and forth.
Another interesting day in the woods with the owls…
***My description of the different calls that Hoot make are based upon my observations of her and are my interpretations from Karla Bloem’s 2009 paper, “ Great Horned Owl Bubo Virginians vocalizations and associated behaviors.” Karla is the Executive Director with the International Owl Center.***
“Spectrographically, Great Horned Owl calls were divided into three main categories: hoots, chitters, and squawks. These categories were further subdivided into five types of hoots, four types of chitters, and five types of squawks based on inflection, number of syllables, duration, pitch, volume, and behavioural context. Two types of non-vocal communication were also distinguished: hisses and bill clacking.”
I have been photographing and observing Hoot for 1 1/2 years, and has always been very comfortable in my presence.