Why the Owl?

 

Have you ever visited a hawk watch and seen an artificial owl (usually a Great Horned Owl) propped up on a pole or in some other elevated location? If so, have you ever wondered why it was there?

It turns out that hawk watchers will put up decoy owls in order to have a little fun. The hope is that the owl will draw hawks and falcons in close. You see, owls and raptors don’t get along and the hope is that a passing raptor will spot the decoy owl, think a devious thought of revenge, and then take a moment to fly in and give the owl a little bash on the head before continuing on its way south.

The Raising of the Owl at Wildcat Ridge Hawk Watch

The Raising of the Owl at Wildcat Ridge Hawk Watch

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen and it’s eye opening to see the quickness at which an attack occurs. It really gave me an appreciation for the speed of an attacking falcon. Someone at the hawk watch will shout that a falcon is going for the owl. The words will barely fall silent and the attack will be over. The falcon has moved in on the owl, decided that it’s a phony or it will actually hit it and then it flies on. And it all takes only moments. What kind of a chance does a real prey have against an attacking falcon or a hawk? The raptor’s attack is so fast and so deadly. I shudder to think about it.

So why don’t Great Horned Owls and raptors get along? Well, there are some pretty good reasons. Among them is the fact that Great Horned Owls will steal the nests from some hawks, like the Red-tail hawk. Then there is the fact that both hawks and owls will prey on each other’s young and destroy each other’s eggs. Top that off with some competition for the same food supply and you have the making for some very hard feelings.

So when you put that all together, I guess I’d feel the same way and, given the opportunity, I’d want to give the hapless plastic owl a little knock on the noggin as I flew past too.

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