Natural Sightings #597 - Great Horned Owls.JPG

Great Horned Owls are one of the most frequently encountered owls in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Tom and Debbie Franchere submitted this photo taken by Debbie of three Great Horned Owls in a tree at their home in the city of Tehachapi.

“We have a big tree in front of our house, and right now we have one to four owls hanging out in the tree,” explained Tom, a retired captain from Kern County Fire Department. “Last year we had a pair of adults and we monitored them as they raised a chick. I think this might be the same family. A few years back we had a bear in that same tree. The tree itself is large and a pretty sight, and was started from a branch the size of my thumb.”

Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) are one of the most frequently encountered owls in the Tehachapi Mountains, along with Barn Owls (Tyto alba). They are often the most vocal as well, making a distinctive “Hoo hoo-hoo! Hoo hoo!” call, frequently in the middle of the night.

Barn owls are vocal as well, but many people who hear them do not recognize the sound as having come from an owl: their call has been likened to a steam release from an old boiler, a wire broom scraping over a concrete floor, and other unmusical sounds. If you hear a “kksshhhttt!” sound in the night, it’s usually a Barn Owl.

Great Horned Owls have the most varied diet of any raptor in North American and have been documented taking prey that ranges in size from insects to young bobcats.

The Nuwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for owl is muhutsi, pronounced “muh-HUHT-see.”

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to:

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