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"Long-eared Owl" is confusing close-up
Fri, 09 Jan 2004 00:14:08 -0800
From: Larry Tunstall

I am forwarding this message to the list for Rich Cimino:

Subject: Long Eared Owl close up and confusing features.
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2004 23:15:17 -0800

This is a little late but - Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon Dave Bowden and I drove back out to the owl roost on Grant Line Rd east of Livermore. We took along a copy of North American Owls - Biology and Natural History by Paul A. Johnsgard, it was in hand. We found the owl at 3 PM. We feel we saw a Great Horned Owl. But to add some discussion points, this owl is thinner in the chest and shoulders it lacks the girth. Its body appears elongated. The tufts / horns are rather long, extended, stretched and alert. The owl hangs close to the main trunk ( Long-eared Owl habit?) But it is the facial mask, the plumage and white neck feathers of a Great Horned Owl.

Sorry, we are hoping to add some detail of what we observed. We returned again at 5:15 PM to see the owl fly out for the evening. In a low flight, the rear profile showed a wide back and big head.

Again Wednesday we found four Great Horned Owls only several seconds drive away. We had two Ferruginous Hawks and twenty Red-Tailed Hawks all in the general area. One mile south on Midway Rd. near the old windmill and cattle water tub we had a Burrowing Owl, as well other Burrowing Owls along Patterson Pass Rd. On Kitty Hawk Rd by the Livermore airport we had two Golden Eagles at the road's end.

From Dave Bowden and Rich Cimino

Posted to EBB by Larry Tunstall

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Revisiting the "Long-eared Owl"
Sat, 10 Jan 2004 14:39:47 -0800
From: Steve Huckabone

I returned this afternoon to the owl roost off Grant Line Rd. I needed to see the bird again to make sure the bird wasn't a Long-eared Owl. As before the bird was in the exact position as I had seen a week ago, head rotated 180 degrees looking down over it's back. When I first found the bird last Saturday I didn't attempt to make my way through the branches, stumps and other debris to see the breast for fear of driving the bird off its roost. Today I did climb through the maze to get a look at the breast of the bird. It is in fact a smallish Great Horned Owl with very long horns as some of you have noticed upon further inspection. I would urge anyone who checked this bird off their life list as a Long-eared Owl to un-check it. I apologize for the mistake and hope I didn't cause too much of an inconvenience. Good birding.

Steve Huckabone
Alameda County
Livermore California

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"Long-eared" Great Horned Owl
Sat, 10 Jan 2004 23:08:04 -0800
From: Akira So

I was just web-surfing for information about Great Horned Owl, being curious if I could find a photo of another Great Horned Owl with the "ear" tufts long and erect like the one we found.

Although I haven't found anything quite like "our" owl yet, I came across this piece of interesting "trivia":

... Just like a dog, great horned owls use these ear tufts to convey body language - when they are irritated the tufts lie flat and when they are inquisitive the ears stand upright....

[Source: ]

This web page isn't particularly scholarly in orientation so I have no idea as to the reliability of this information. In fact I suspect the truth is far more complex than this simplistic statement. (Perhaps someone with access to more authoritative sources of owl information could amplify or correct it?)

But, being a bit facetious for a moment, it would be fun to think that what we got here is an unusually inquisitive owl, to have its ear tufts erect, seemingly all the time. Or else, I would be glad if it meant at least that the bird wasn't too annoyed of us birders' presence and attention.

The above link also gives other rather interesting info on Great Horned Owl, making it a quick and interesting read.

Good birding,
Pleasanton, CA

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Great Horned Owl versus Long-eared Owl
Sat, 10 Jan 2004 23:52:07 -0800
From: Paul Webster

It's easy to mistake one bird for another, especially when owling. Low-light conditions mask things that would otherwise be obvious. Still, the Great Horned Owl is a very large bird, it's really the top of the predator chain (unless an eagle is close by), and doesn't bother even to build its own nest. It just takes over the nest of a hawk large enough to fit - often the nest of a Red-tailed Hawk. This owl is nearly two feet long, and it looks big, too; the only other North American owl that looks that massive is a Barred Owl - which is earless and a bit smaller.

The Long-eared Owl is much smaller than the Great Horned Owl, only about two-thirds as big, and it's a relatively slender bird, too. In the Bay Area, as in western Washington the Great Horned Owl is pretty common, and the Long-eared Owl is rare. It also tends to be hard to find, because it is retiring - it usually roosts in dense trees. When I saw my first Long-eared Owl I saw only its head through a gap in the foliage. I could tell it wasn't a Great Horned Owl because their faces are different colors.

I guess what all this means is that if I expect to find the Great Horned Owl rather than the Long-eared Owl, I'll almost always be right - in western Washington or in Northern California.

Paul Webster

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