Great horned owl eating a bird

Great horned owl eating a bird

September 14, 2020

The great horned owl who sometimes roosts in a big live oak tree that overhangs our dry creek bed stopped by for an early supper one rainy day last week. He flew low along the creek carrying a freshly killed bird and swooped up into the tree to eat it.

Whereas the hawks will carefully pick apart their prey and take their time over a meal, this owl took a very different approach; the video shows him tearing the bird into huge chunks and swallowing them feathers and all. He did pluck off some of the bigger feathers and drop them, but if they didn’t come out easily he seemed perfectly happy to eat them. It was fascinating to watch. Feathers would be very difficult for a human to swallow but perhaps for an owl a few wing feathers just make the meal more interesting?

We also include here some video showing an “owl pellet” that we found on the creek bed a couple of weeks ago – probably from this same owl. An owl pellet is the regurgitated leftovers of the indigestible portion of whatever the owl had eaten a day or two previously. This pellet contained the remains of a rat. The skull was still fully intact and packed with fur. It’s hard to imagine what kind of digestive process could produce such a tidy and compact ball of waste and then deliver it back up the owl’s throat to be hacked out and forgotten.