Monday, January 10, 2022

Hoot (female Great Horned Owl) Chitter Calls 01-09-22

 Hoot (female Great Horned Owl) (Chitter Calls)  01-09-22 (Photos & Video)

Updated: More chitter call information

On Sunday, 01-09-22, I was back out in the woods looking for the Great Horned Owls. When I got to their area I spotted an owl perched in a tree about 40 yards away. I used my binoculars and saw it was Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl.  I stayed where I was for a few more minutes looking around to see if I could see Give a Hoot, the male, anywhere near her. Nope, I didn’t see him.

When I looked at Hoot I could see some shadows across her body that were being cast from some branches that were between her and the sun. (I put this clip in the video for show) This was also the fourth time seeing her perched in this same tree and in the same spot on the branch. Since I’ve photographed her three other times in this same spot I know it’s not going to be the best place for photos, either. When I found her I checked the time and it was 1405 hrs. It took me a half hour to locate her. I started walking very slow and stopping as I went looking for Give a Hoot, but he wasn’t around.  

Where Hoot was perched I knew I have only one very small window in which to photograph her, but I’ll still have some unwanted branches in the way. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best I will get today.

She was still sleeping as I set up my tripod twenty minutes later. She never opened her eyes to look my direction while I was walking around and getting set up. I took a couple shots to see how the unwanted branches were placed in the frame, then as I was putting my microphone on the camera she made a call. I’ve mentioned before these calls sound like a territorial call, but without the forward leaning body posture. I believe she is letting Give a Hoot know her location. Then she immediately went back to napping.

Most of the time I was with her she slept. She woke up up a few times and made some more calls like before, but I never heard Give a Hoot return any of them. Again, these calls seem to be more of a contact call letting Give a Hoot know her location.

Today was another very cold day. It felt much colder than when I was out with her two days ago when the windchill was -15F. Even though the temperature was 2 degrees F when I went out today, there was a brisk west wind making for a very cold windchill. I had warmer gloves on today, but not moving around made for another very cold time spent with Hoot waiting for her to wake up. I spent 2 1/2 hours with her today.

Around 1430 hrs Hoot became alert and was looking around. I know she was listening to something which I thought might have been some other person who was crazy enough to be walking around in the woods close to sunset.

I had the video recording while she was listening and looking intently when she suddenly stood up. I ended the video because I thought she was going to do her stretches and I wanted to get some photos of her doing them.

Instead she flew off without doing any stretches.  She flew off while I watched until she landed in another tree maybe 30 yards away. Once she landed I couldn’t see her anymore. While I packing up my gear I didn’t see or hear anyone. It took me a little longer to pack up my gear because of my slightly numb hands inside my thicker gloves.

Hoot flew off in the general direction I would be walking to leave the woods, so once I was all packed up I headed out.  While walking out I spotted an owl in the distance, so I glassed it. It was Give a Hoot, but I didn’t see Hoot. Although, I didn’t spend any time looking for her. It was time to keep walking to get my blood flowing through my body again.  

When I got home I watched the last video clip that I took of her shortly before she flew off because that was the most interesting since she was actually awake. The other clips were of her mostly sleeping.

What I noticed was Hoot making a couple different chitter calls. Both of these chitter calls are very soft and done with her mouth closed. This was the first time I heard the sound from the Clucky Chitter, although I’ve seen her body posture associated with it in the past. Because I was recording her when she did the Clucky Chitter I heard the sound today.

The other chitter call, Conversation Chitter, all I could see were some very small body movements. The sounds are so soft the microphone doesn’t even pick them up.  I’ve seen these fine body movement before, but I would need to be very close to her to hear this chitter. Again she makes these sounds with her mouth closed.

Based upon these calls she was probably communicating with Give a Hoot and not looking around because of someone else in the woods like I first thought.

There isn’t a lot of information from research done about the Great Horned Owl vocalizations and behaviors. However, Karla Blome, with the International Owl Center, is one person who has been documenting the different calls and behaviors. I’ve spoken with her a couple times last winter with some questions on what I was observing / calls with Hoot and her owlets. I also spoke with her today, 01-10-21, with the chitters I heard and saw yesterday. Karla said she needed to update some of the information in the paper. I’m looking forward to that additional information.

Karla wrote a paper in 2009, Great Horned Owl Bubo Virginians vocalizations and associated behaviors which I reference in naming these two chitter calls…Clucky Chitter and Conversation Chitter.  

Here is some of the information Karla document on the Clucky Chitter and Conversational Chitter….  

“Clucky Chitters are given with the bill closed at lower
volume and with the bill open with increasing volume.
They are a series of rapidly repeated, evenly spaced syl-
lables that sound a bit like “hut, hut, hut” at lower
intensities. They may increase in volume and lead into
Territorial Hoots.”

Conversational Chitters… “These vocalizations are very quiet and are produced with the bill closed. Often they are so quiet that
only a slight movement of the upper body or tail is
noticeable. They are delivered in short bursts with
spaces in between and can roughly be transcribed as
“Hmm? Hmm? Hmm? Hmm?” Conversational Chitters
can be given any time of year. They are directed to
another individual at close range.”

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