Written By: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator
Octavius is an eight-year old, female, Great-Horned owl. She is one of the Education Birds at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre. Octavius is what is called a ‘non-releasable’. She does not have the skills to live and hunt in the wild because she imprinted on humans. If she was released, she would not survive on her own.
The Great-Horned owl is the most common large owl species in Ontario. Great-Horned Owls live in both deciduous and coniferous forests. They are easy to identify because they are large with thick bodies and two little tufts on their heads–called ‘plumiforms’. Octavius has broad and rounded wings: the wing span can reach up to five feet. Although Octavius looks big, owls of her species do not weigh more than six pounds (2.5 kg).
Great-Horned owls are nocturnal, and fierce hunters. They prey on small animals like rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and even other owls. Great-Horned Owls even prey on porcupines and skunks. Once owls like Octavius kill and consume their prey, they regurgitate the bones and other indigestible material in pellets. If you take the pellet apart, you can reconstruct the skeleton of their prey. Biology!
Great-Horned owls nest mostly in trees, and, will often take over an abandoned nest. The Real Estate market is fierce even for owls. Female owls will lay around 1-5 eggs; the Male will help the female to incubate and hunt.
Some of Octavius’s favourite foods include voles, grouse, quail and pheasants. She has quite the sophisticated palette, and through the Raptor of the Month program, we at Conservation Halton keep her belly well-fed. Please donate now!