Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Look What the Crows Found: A Great Horned Owl! November 24, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Fall,Seasons — saltthesandbox @ 5:11 pm
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Late this morning I saw at least 14 American Crows in Columbus Park. To me that’s really great — I love crows, but their local population was decreased a few years ago by West Nile Virus. Now that they’re coming back, there’s reason for excitement — you never know quite what’s going to happen when crows are around.

The first crows I saw — a group of nine — were foraging in the woods by the lagoon. Two of them were tearing up a hornet nest. (I’ll post about that later.) They took off when they saw me, heading east and out of the Park.

The next group of crows was only five in number, but they were making lots of noise when I encountered them in the woods along Austin. At first I figured they might be looking for hornet nests — they were in the same trees where I found the nests in this blog post. But they just landed in the trees, took off again, circled over the golf course, then returned to the same trees — calling constantly. The second time they landed it was obvious that they weren’t just calling — they were calling at something. It seemed that they might be “mobbing” a hawk, so I scanned the trees with my binoculars. I thought I might find a Red-tailed or Cooper’s Hawk, which are common in the Park. Instead, this is what I saw:

Great Horned Owl, Columbus Park, Chicago, Illinois, November 24, 2009.

The crows had located a Great Horned Owl -- the first owl I had ever seen in Columbus Park.

The Great Horned Owl was the very first owl I had ever seen in Columbus Park! A few minutes earlier I had walked right under that tree, scanning the surrounding tree tops as I went, but I had completely missed the owl. Good thing the crows helped me out — the owl was sleeping away the day in a White Oak tree. Oaks hold their leaves longer than the other trees in Columbus Park, and the leaves helped hide the owl from view.

I walked a little closer, taking photos as I went. I got within about 75 feet and took this shot:

Great Horned Owl, Columbus Park, Chicago, Illinois, November 24, 2009.

This closer view shows the owl's tufts of feathers, which look like horns to some. It also shows the white neck band, which helps distinguish Great Horned Owls from other species with horn-like tufts.

After a few more photos, I backed away. The crows had left, and I decided to do the same. Time to let the owl get back to sleep.

I hope the crows stick around all winter and beyond. Who knows what they’ll find next time! And I hope the owl finds lots to eat tonight in Columbus Park.


5 Responses to “Look What the Crows Found: A Great Horned Owl!”

  1. cqrol Says:

    How exciting is this?!
    I love crows as well and have been pleased to see their numbers increasing in Edgewater. Along with the occasional spring Blue Jay.
    I’ve learned to watch crow activity closely and am usually rewarded with good hawk sightings-Cooper’s to Red Tail. I haven’t see them bothering the Peregrine’s, though.

  2. Jane Says:

    Wow, great photo! Interesting about the crows. I’m seeing them all over the city now.

  3. Gloria B Says:

    I love reading about your findings. I find it refreshing that someone is taking the time to blog about the wildlife in Columbus Park. I live in the area and would never in a million years know that there is or was a Great Horned Owl in the one of the White Oaks in the park. KUDOS to you and keep up the good work. It’s interesting. Thank you.

  4. Dave Says:

    Excellent find! I think I saw (my first) sharp-shinned hawk today hunting by the neighbor’s bird feeder…

  5. Melissa Says:

    What a fantastic sighting!

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