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Arizona's Great Horned Owls like it where the livin' is easy

Article Date: 2006-08-27   Source:   Comments: 72

By M.J. Smith

Bullhead City, Arizona, U.S.A. - Five great horned owls have found an oasis in the desert in the backyard of one Bullhead City resident, calling the tropical-landscaped grounds home throughout the year.

''I just love them so much,'' Tanya Babcock said of the birds of prey perched in her palm trees. ''They are an absolutely majestic animal.''

Great horned owls, one of 19 species of owl found in the United States, stand two feet tall, weigh approximately three pounds and have a wing span of 55 inches.

"They totally have taken over," Babcock said of her yard off Desert Foothills Boulevard. "It's their yard, it's not my yard anymore. The other evening one of the babies was crying, making a lot of screaming cries and I told my husband, I think he must be thirsty. Sure enough, when we turned off the music, they came right down and drank."

The owls Babcock refers to as babies could have been born as early as January.

Great horned owls typically begin the mating process in the late fall and early winter, according to Arizona Fish and Game Department avian monitoring coordinator Troy Corman.

"During part of the courtship, the male will expand his white throat bib while calling to the female. The two will then engage in typical owl hooting," he said. "Nesting follows shortly after. Great horned owls are one of our earliest nesting species in Arizona, with many nests containing eggs in December and January."

Great horned owls do not make their own nests, but rather move into another creature's vacated home, Corman said.

"For nesting in Arizona, they typically use abandoned stick nests of raptors or ravens, but will also nest on cliff ledges, in shallow cavities, in stream banks, under bridges and in abandoned buildings," he said.

Both the male and female owl will incubate the 2-6 eggs for about 30 days.

"During this time, males will fiercely protect the nest," Arizona Game and Fish Department spokesman Zen Mocarski said. "They have little fear in protecting the nest and will attack just about anything posing a threat, including people."

Babcock didn't notice an increase in the owls aggression during the nesting period but said the young owls, which are fledged from the nest at 45-55 days old, were very curious.

"They'll get really close to look at you and see what's going on," Babcock said. "They'll get a lot closer than the momma."

While they are curious, they can also be ferocious. In years with a limited food supply, young owls may kill their weakest siblings in a fight for survival, Mocarski said.

"Most owls practice birth control," he said. "They will have fewer hatchlings, or owletts because of a lack of food to support the young."

Sitting on the curved trunk of a palm tree, with down-like feathers ruffled, and large ear-tufts peaked, the young owl kept an intense gaze on the goings on.

"They have a lot of attitude," Babcock said as the yellow-eyed bird followed her movements. "Just look at him. He's not afraid and he wants you to know it."

Babcock believes there are two young birds, along with her three long time residents now living in her yard.

"I've counted five," she said. "Three of them have lived here as long as I can remember. We've just always had them. They make a lot of sound in the early morning and evening and I just love it."

The only down side to sharing your pool with a family of great horned owls is their leavings, Babcock said.

"The pellets are the only problem," she said. "I have to clean up after them quite a bit."

Scientists often use owl pellets, the undigested portion of an owl's meal that is thrown up after eating, to determine species abundance.

"Owls are good indicators of ecosystem sensitivity," Mocarski said. "Their numbers are a good indication of prey availability and habitat conditions."

Arizona's largest owl, the great horned owl, has a huge habitat range, having been documented up to 9,800 feet above sea level, he said.

They can be found around farm fields, in open woodlands, orchards, deserts, riparian areas and the suburbs. They avoid heavily wooded forests and flat treeless areas.

"The reason they are so adaptable is because of their feeding habits," Mocarski said. "They aren't overly dependent on a particular species. They'll eat insects, scorpions, rodents, jackrabbits, birds, reptiles and amphibians."

Their primary diet however, is small mammals and the animals have a bad reputation, that may not be deserved, for taking house cats and small dogs, Corman said.

"Great horned owls typically take cottontail rabbit sized animals or smaller. Although they can take similar sized cats, dogs and puppies, these instances are very rarely reported," he said. "In Arizona, coyotes kill many more pets than great horned owls."

Nearly silent in flight, due to specially designed frayed feathers along their wings, they are excellent nocturnal hunters, Mocarski said.

"They'll swoop down on unsuspecting prey and their strong talons snatch up the meal," he said. "They will attack animals larger and heavier and are possibly the fiercest creature with feathers."

The animals are well camouflaged, with brownish gray underparts, a white chin and throat and rusty facial disks. They have acute hearing and superb eyesight, Mocarski said.

An owl's eyes are almost the size of a humans, allowing a lot of light to pass through during night hunts. Because the eyes are stationary and don't move from side to side, the birds are equipped with extra vertebrae in their necks to allow their heads to rotate 270 degrees, not the 360 degrees many people believe, he said.

The owls use their large tufted ears to pinpoint movement, alternating their perch from time to time to get a better fix on the location of prey.

Another modification is the location and movement of their talons. Unlike many birds who have three toes in back and one in front, the great horned owl has one toe that is reversible, it can move it from front to back to accommodate perching or hunting.

"Great horned owls have few natural predators," Mocarski said. "The primary threats to great horned owls are human related."

Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from and placed here for comment. is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.

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On 2006-09-23, from Virginia wrote: "I was curious about the size of the great horned owl's prey. I have two cats that occasionally roam outside through the dog door. One is 11 pounds, the other is over 26 lbs. I hope they are safe. My husband saw a huge owl outside the house early this morning."

On 2007-07-13, d. hite from Arizona wrote: "Cats are not safe.
I have watched them knock a cat off a fence. They have attacked small dogs in our neighborhood. My neighbors all go outside with their small dogs and keep watch on them.

On 2007-09-11, from nw arizona wrote: "I have a beautiful great horned owl drinks from birdbath each nite. A frightening creature. Looks like a pitbull with wings. "

On 2007-09-13, from Salome, Az wrote: "Outdoor cats have been disappearing from here one by one for a few months here. I assumed it was coyotes, but, saw what it was last night. A huge owl swooped down & almost took a full grown kitten. We chased the cat under a vehicle. Someone told me in this same area that they lost their chihuahua to an owl a few years back. I wonder if this is the same owl? How long do they live?"

On 2008-03-11, Teresa from Tucson, AZ wrote: "I awoke to owl hoots and sure enough there is one outside on the very tall eucaliptus tree. It flew down to the shed, up to the cable wire then returned to the tree limb."

On 2008-03-27, Melanie from Gilbert wrote: "Last Saturday we brought home two 6 week old bunnies for my son as pets. The first one disappeared that day. The second one disappeared sometime Tuesday night. At first we thought it was a cat, but as I was looking for them again last night, I heard an owl screeching just overhead. I was shocked to see the size of this owl. Wow! I think I know what happened to the bunnies..."

On 2008-05-05, Mike from Paradise Valley Arizona wrote: "I have resided in Paradise Valley for three years. Several times I have spotted a Great Horned Owl setting in a tree or on top of a fence while walking the area. Yesterday I found one setting up residency in a tree in my backyard. What a beautiful bird. As a child I would run accross these birds along a tree lined creek in my home state of Oklahoma. I have lived in Arizona fourtytwo years and this is a treat to see in the ciy. I just hope he leaves my Jackrussell dog alone."

On 2008-07-21, Michael from Scottsdae wrote: "My dog, about 15 pounds is in the emergency animal hospital tonight after being attacked by a GHO at dusk. No dobt they will try to take a dog...I watched it all go down. The bird actualy lifted the dog about five feet befor the dog got free and fell to the gound. Next time I see that thing will be its last flight. Idiots like this women from bull head city are encouraging the birds to hang around residential area. Get a clue!"

On 2008-09-02, Lara from 56th Street and Thunderbird wrote: "A GHO killed my 10lb ShiTzu in my front yard. This happened at SunRise on Sunday Morning. It hit her, lifted her and dropped her in a matter of seconds. Crushed her spine/neck. "

On 2008-10-03, from Mesa, Az wrote: "Today i came down to visit friends in Marana, Az. (just north of Tucson) and we were treated to a rare sight....perched in the large palm tree in the back yard was a Great Horned Owl! He stayed in the tree on the same branch for about five hours. He was just beautiful!! And he wasn't scared of us at all as we stood close to the tree to take his picture. He was very curious about us,too. He batted his magnificant eyes and preened himself as we watched him. What a great experience to see one of these creatures up close!"

On 2008-11-04, Gil from Fountain Hills wrote: "We usually have four or five owls in our neighborhood this time of year. Their hooting is incredible, particularly when they perch on our chimney, which acts a bit like a megaphone pointed into the living room.

My duaghter and I saw three on our pre-dawn walk this morning. Two hooted in the usual fashion, but a third one made a sort of screeching noise that I had never heard before. Perhaps it was a female?

On 2008-12-05, from Peoria AZ wrote: "My husband I heard an owl hooting on 12/03/08 but we dismissed it. Today my husband asked the neighbor if he had heard anything a few nights ago and he said yes. He said he heard the owl from the kithcen and when he opened the garage door, he saw this huge owl on our balcony. He said it was about two feet tall. He is from China and has never seen an owl in person before. We are all excited and will try to take pictures of it tonight. "

On 2008-12-20, from bullhead city az wrote: "I live right on the Colo River.I seen several owls in past yrs but none of them stayed too long. This year we have had one "hooting" from dusk to dawn staying in a 6 house area. We all have large eucalyptas trees on the river n he seems to favor those. He has been here since early Oct n in recent wks another owl comes n goes. Last nite they were both in the same tree "talking" to each other. It is a magnificent sight n sound. I hope they stay n have owlets.will keep u posted. To the lady above, u need to get a clue. Your "residential" area is THEIR habitat. You are simply a visitor. Do u really think owls know the difference between your pet cat or dog and a rabbit? Its all food to them. People: pay attention to your pets when owls are around. They have just as much right to be in your neighborhood as you do! Also, saw 7 juvenile owls in the Silvercreek Wash last weekend. What a sight, all those owls hanging out together. Take care of your owls and your pets, folks! Can't we all get along?"

On 2009-07-09, from Scottsdale AZ wrote: "My home backs up to the desert and I have 3 Horned Owls who have taken up residency in my neighbor's tree overlooking my back yard. They are there all day. As magnificent as I find them I am worried about my 2 Bichon's who go in and out the puppy door. They have been there for 2 weeks by now and I wonder if they are nesting in the desert or are they scouting out my dogs?"

On 2009-07-10, from Chandler - "The Springs" wrote: "A Great Horned Owl has shown up in our yard and pine trees over the last two days. I can always tell when they arrive because my cats go crazy when the grackles go crazy. early morning and dusk are the times it shows up. Very cool. Maybe they can help with the over population of grackles."

On 2009-07-31, Jake Tommerup from Phoenix wrote: "We got 'em too. Looked like a small airplane was soaring over the backyard at pre-dawn this morning.

What with the coyotes and the Horny (er Horned) owls, our cats are never going outside.

On 2009-09-06, Robin Campbell from Dewey Arizona wrote: "We had a great Horned Owl in our weeping willow overlooking a koi pond today. As we have small dogs, we tried to get him ro leave. He said no ! we sprayed him with a hose and still got a big no !now what ? it seems fearless"

On 2009-09-11, from Tempe wrote: "Please watch out if you have small dogs or cats. I am babysitting a Chihuahua and last night Sept. 11th 2009 around 12:35am a Great Horned Owls tried snatching the dog, cute little Sandy. Thank god I saw it just before it lowered its head and leaped off the roof swooping in for the quick grab. It came within 5 feet of me, our eyes locked with its talons out before going over my head landing on telephone wires, eyes still focused on the dog. An hour later, the dog and I went back outside just in time to see it catching small birds asleep in the trees. This morning feathers were scattered all over the ground below those same trees! This owl was bigger than the normal 2 lbs with a larger wing span of 55 inches but with smaller black ear tufts then the samples I've seen in photos!"

On 2009-10-08, Bonita from Yuma.Arizona wrote: "I have been losing cats for a long time now.Had kittens only have 3 left.I am now forced to put up netting all over the top and around my property.Between the coyotes,redtails,and owls,I'm sick of it.They are illegal to kill.And no,we can't all get along!So I am doing the next best thing.Call it a big animal coop.I now have them in 2 easy up rooms connected together outside. I enclosed with stucco wire and chain link fencing.At least now,they can be outside and safe until I get the yard enclosed as well.So yes,NEVER put a animal outside without supervision! "

On 2009-10-10, Kellye Hoyt from Prescott Valley wrote: "My husband and I saw an owl at dusk a couple of weeks ago...flew right over us. The grass in our backyard has been 'attacked' by something. Big pieces of grass rooted up and the soil underneath dug into. Early this morning , still dark out, we heard an owl very close by our bedroom window. Could this owl be the culpret? Could it be digging in our grass for insects? (Grasshopper larvae, I'm thinking!) Our grass is beginning to look awful! If I hear it in the morning, I'm gonna run look!! Don't know what I'll do if it is an owl...I hear they just don't scare. My poor grass!!!"

On 2009-10-13, Christine O. from Sierra Vista, AZ wrote: "There was a magnificent GHO on my rooftop this evening; I hope he comes back soon."

On 2009-10-14, Janet from Glendale, AZ wrote: "Last night, I heard a screeching noise in my backyard and finally located the source coming from the roof of my neighbors house. After reading this article, I believe it was a GHO. It was HUGE! I will keep a close eye on my two small dogs as I don't want them to be the owl's next meal! "

On 2009-10-14, Julie B. from Mesa Arizona wrote: "I just moved to Arizona from Colorado and I am a Great Horned Owl freak. In a nut shell, when my Mom passed away 4 years ago we had a GHO sitting in the tree outside the window where Mom used to sit, on the morning we were getting ready for her funeral. Later that day we all went back to Dads house with all the relatives and went through Moms art work. We all knew Mom was a fantastic artist and everyone wanted a piece of her work. We found so many paintings of owls, you wouldnt believe it. They are all over my bedroom now, I fall asleep looking at them every night. The Family is convinced that Mom has used the form of an owl to watch over us. Living in Colorado for the last 4 years you would think that I would have seen plenty of owls, Nope. 6 weeks after I moved back to Arizona ( last night on the way home from my sons f-ball practice) I had a GHO fly right over my car as if it was flying with me and land on a light pole. I stopped and got out of my car with my son and we stood under it and "she" looked down and looked back at us for a while. We think it was Mom checking on us letting us know she is still here and loves us. Thanks for letting me tell my story. Have a nice day."

On 2009-10-18, from Surprise AZ wrote: "I've lived in AZ for 18 years and never seen an owl. Sitting in my front yard with a friend the night before last a huge bird came swooping down our street like something out of a Harry Potter movie! I had no idea what it was. We seen it sitting on the top of a lamp post and went to check it out and it tookn off. The next night I saw it again on the lamp post right by my house and instantly I knew what it was and what its doing. I have a mini chihauhau its been stalking! Im completly blown away! What do I do to protect my dog."

On 2009-12-03, sarah wrote: "My neighbor's large cat was killed by an owl! They are definitely dangerous to small pets."

On 2010-02-21, Kevin from Ahwatukee wrote: "Michael from Scottsdae {sic] wrote: "Next time I see that thing will be its last flight. Idiots like this women from bull head city are encouraging the birds to hang around residential area. Get a clue!"

You are the idiot who needs to get a clue. You moved onto the owl's territory; it hasn't moved onto yours. based on the fatuity of your remarks, however, I doubt you have the skill or intelligence to harm the bird, so I am not worried about that. I am more worried about a dog that has such a stupid owner.

On 2010-04-17, from Tucson, Arizona wrote: "This year is the third set of owls in our Palm tree. The first babies were in tiny pockets of severed fronds so I built a nest for the next winter. The parents raised 4 owlets. As each one hops out of the nest before they can fly, I carry it next door where there are no dogs or cats. The parents feed them on the ground until they can fly and continue feed for several months
I cleaned and rebuilt the nest the this season and I can see at least two new babies. They stay around all year. It's so much fun to see the spring owlets investigating the new nest when I put it up. I have wonderful pictures if you want to include my e-mail address.

On 2010-04-20, Robin from Scottsdale wrote: "Lea - I know you think you're doind something WONDERFUL BUT I'm sure your neighbors wouldn;t appreciate knowing that you're encouraging a dangerous predator to make it's home in the area. Didn;t you see the stories of death and near death of both cats and small dogs. Not only that but you should never interfere with the habits of a wild animal by providing for them unless it's an emergency and you're trying to save their life. And even so, THIS IS A DANGEROUS PREDATOR! And YES, I am the proud mother or 2 small dogs that are my only living family -- I would be beyond devastated if something was to happen to them despite my carefully watching over them. For them to be attached by an owl should be a remote possibility but it becomes MUCH MORE LIKELY if someone in the area is foolish enough to encourage them for their own pleasure! Shame on you for being so selfish and such a bad beighbor!"

On 2010-05-02, Alex from Glendale az (7th st and northern) wrote: "i live on a mountain out here and i have heard a owl hooting 3 times the past month and a half i have lived here, i have yet to locate the owl but im pretty sure hes living around here. do they tend to stick to a area if its got a good food source ? im sure they are feeding off tons of k rats and etc round the mountain."

On 2010-05-27, Eva from Tucson, AZ wrote: "My lil brothers dog who weighed appx. 15lbs was killed last night. Really sad it only took a minute. He let her out to pee and she was torn apart. Small dogs are definitely not safe. Not even in the city."

On 2010-07-07, from Scottsdale AZ wrote: "I just took my dog out to go potty, and o the grass infront of me was 3 small baby/ owls. They didnt really want to fly off until i got close . They were just hanging out near bushes before flying to a tree and flying off. didnt realize they hung out together, Hope all is o.k. They were about 10" tall and very cute."

On 2010-07-29, Phil from Tucson, AZ wrote: "We have heard their "hoot hoot" since early Spring. Yesterday we finally saw them, now upon further inspection, we have THREE of them in our large pine tree. Don't know if one is a baby or not, we are going to keep an eye on them. Now the cats are mad, they have to stay inside....Cool birds."

On 2010-09-06, Spencer from N Phx wrote: "My cat, April, likes to go out on the front porch at night. She never ventures too far out, not even all the way out to the street. I have seen her laying down on the walk path in front, and I worry about Coyotes and Owls since we live right next to a preserve. Well she went out a few nights ago and never came back. I'm pretty sure an owl got her (haven't seen any coyotes yet, plus Coyotes are noisy when they make a kill). I have, however, heard an owl several nights in our neighborhood and even talked to my next door neighbor about it. But we haven't heard it in a while. I saw one many years ago swoop down and grab a cat right in front of my eyes at UofA in Tucson, right in front of the student library on campus! The cat got away that time, but probably was severely injured. It's sad for me to think of my cat falling prey to anything and getting eaten alive. I just hope she went quick and didn't suffer. I feel so bad I didn't go out with her. Or maybe I shouldn't have let her go out when I knew there were owls and knew what they were capable of. My point in writing this is just to suggest that you go outside with your small pets if you know there are owls nearby. And keep your eye out! R.I.P. April."

On 2010-10-23, from Tempe wrote: "My son and I were just out for a walk in The Lakes neighborhood in Tempe, and suddenly a huge GHO swooped down onto the middle of the street, chasing the neighborhood cat the kids have nicknamed Marshmallow. He heard us and puffed up, we watched each other for a bit, and he took off...unbelievably silent. Marshmallow fortunately made it into some bushes. After our walk, my son spotted the owl again perched on our neighbor's chimney. As we were about to head into the house, Marshmallow came out of hiding and the owl tried again, talons bared, and Marshmallow escaped again. They definitely go after cats. We've been noticing piles of bird feathers lying around lately, and blamed the cats. Now we think it's the cats that should be concerned!"

On 2010-11-06, from Scottsdale wrote: "I was enjoying my swimming pool late in the afternoon today and happened to look up at my neighbors large, ungroomed palm trees...shocked to see a GHO sitting on a tall branch watching. What an amazing animal-- he sat in the tree for a couple of hours checking us out. He didn't seem to be very interested in my 25 pound Cavalier King Spaniel. He was more interested in our pool vacuum. ;)
Once the darkness came- he flew into another neighbors palm- didn't like the perch very well since he nearly fell out of it...and then took off. I've seen owls from Liberty Wildlife talks, but I've never seen one in the "wild" like this. He had a huge wingspan- it was an awesome experience!

On 2011-01-15, from Lake Havasu City, Az wrote: "Two evenings ago a hugh owl perched himself on a telephone wire in our backyard. As we were thinking how wonderful nature was in this area, the owl swooped down and came within 2 feet of taking our 10 pound Yorkie. Our screaming scared him away so not only do we have to look to the fields for coyotes, but now the sky for owls. The wingspan on this owl was something else and what a majestic creature in spite of his hunting habits."

On 2011-01-21, from Tucson, AZ wrote: "A few minutes ago I was pulling into my driveway and my husband stopped the car because he saw an owl. I am amazed by the beauty of these creatures, as he flew away his wingspan was breathtaking. We see them regularly and each time I can't but to feel stunned by them!"

On 2011-04-03, from Phoenix, area of 44th St. between Greenw wrote: "Just Saturday night while sitting on the back patio of our home we noticed a huge bird fly into the top of a neighbors Palm tree. After watching closely from our back yard, we could tell it was an owl. We have lived her since 1994 and knew there were owls around, but thank God our animals have never been harmed. Our 20 pound miniature Schnauzer and the cats hang out in the back yard all the time, but I am definately keeping a closer eye on my animals. We are usually out in the yard with them, so hopefully that helps, but they are amazing creatures."

On 2011-04-28, ajc from Queen Creek AZ wrote: "Went to the local Home Depot store today--yes, a pair of GHO have nested in the garden section and I was lucky to see the male and a chick--what a lovely sight. I was told this isn't the first year they have nested and are protected by the employees in the store. Thanks to them, many adults and children are treated to a wonderful sight. Yes, these birds are preditors, and I have lost chickens to GHO, Hawks or Coyotes, but I so enjoy seeing Gods creatures. We must share our world."

On 2011-05-21, John & Margaret from Paulden, Arizona wrote: "We live in a very rural area & noticed approx. 2 month's ago a male Great Horned owl sitting in a row of huge elm tree's that line the road near our home. 2 elm's over we noticed a female setting in a nest. Shortly there after we saw 3 babies popping their heads up. Incredible sight if you've never had a chance to see this in the wild. The babies have since fledged their nest & now sit in the huge elm tree's close by their mom & dad. Magnificent bird's. GHO's are very large & majestic looking. They keep a close eye on us each day, as we do them. We feel blessed to have had this opportunity. We've also had Bald Eagles & Golden Eagles fly around our home. Now, they ARE majestic in every way! As for the individual who is angry @ the owl that harmed his dog, putting it in the hospital; Your bitterness is understandable & am glad to know your friend is going to be ok. However, please try & understand the owls have been here for many many year's & they have to eat in order to survive just as we do, as disturbing as it may seem. EVERYONE MUST keep a watchful eye on all your small pet's in order to keep them safe from all wild living creatures. They lived here LONG BEFORE WE DID. Again, I'm sad your pet was hurt but will be alright."

On 2011-06-16, from Phoenix 44th St & Greenway area wrote: "We have a pair of GHO's camping out in our neighbors Eucalyptus trees. They use our water feature as their private bird bath. We have a 16 lb doxiepoo dog that we worry about. I hope they stick to rabbits in the area. They're pellets are messy, however."

On 2011-06-22, from 56th Street & Shea Blvd., Paradise Valle wrote: "We are usually very careful about our pets because we have seen several packs of coyotes, a large owl and hawks in the area. We let our 8 pound dachsund out into the backyard two nights ago and never saw her again:( Yesterday I saw the owl fly into one of our backyard trees. When I went to take a closer look, he swooped down and I couldn't believe how huge he was. Since we did not hear any coyotes, we suspect he may have taken our precious dog. WATCH YOUR SMALL ANIMALS!!"

On 2011-06-28, Mark Stevens from Scottsdale, Jomax & Pina. wrote: "North Scottsdale, Jomax & Pima area. Today is about 110 degrees outside. It is the middle of the afternoon and I have 4 great horned owls sitting in the shade drinking from the waterfall behind my pool. They have been there about two hours. One adult and three younger owls, almost fully grown. It looks like an owl aviary in my back yard. "

On 2011-07-07, from mesa wrote: "I recently found out there is a group of owls living in the palm trees near my house.I have no pets right now,but I'm afraid if I get another pup it could get attacked by these owls.I want them removed!!!an a sick one ended up in my neighbors yard.I'm telling you if they ever killed my pet I'd shoot them!!! They need to live out in the desert...not in town!!!"

On 2011-08-09, from Tucson - Eastside wrote: "We live in a semi-rural area on the east-side of Tucson. 30 years ago we planted a Chilean Mesquite in our backyard and it has grown to 25+ feet tall. In the last few years several GHOs have taken up roosting in it. A few months ago I noticed a large pile of feathers on our lawn under the tree - upon investigation, it turned out to be a GHO with a broken neck. Apparently it had swooped in to perch on a limb and had mis-judged and hit the limb with its head instead. Could have been a juvenile. AZ Fish & Game said to double-bag it and put it in the trash. Seemed like an inglorious end for such a magnificent bird. BTW - it is illegal to have possession of any portion of a GHO - they are protected. Lot's of birds out here. A Harris hawk was chasing a dove a while back - both crashed into our living room window and both unfortunately died."

On 2011-08-16, Jessica from East Mesa wrote: "2 GHOs in the wash behind our house for about 90 minutes around dusk today. One swooped about 12 feet from my husband when it finally decided to find another perch. They kind of creeped me out!"

On 2011-09-18, Patricia from 75th av/ Deer Valley wrote: "A GHO has been sitting at different spots on our tile roof in a residential area during daylight and evening hours this weekend. It did not seem to be bothered by people walking less than 2 ft away from it's perch on the low corner overhang of the roof. We have a small dog and 2 adjacent neighbors do also. We are using a leash even in the back yard."

On 2011-09-19, Gretchen from Snowflake, AZ wrote: "We have GHO hunt our acreage at night, we do encourage them to help with the rodent population, (you folks in Phx have no idea). We enjoy the wildlife when we encounter it, but are very aware of the danger to our cat. She is also a hunter, but must be inside before dark every night. Last night, there was an owl "hooting" outside the gate, I went out to have a look. I hooted back, (I know, silly), but one of them flew right to me, landed on the roof of my house and hung out for about a minute. It was awesome....I understand its mating season. It was later apparent to me that there were at least 3 GHO in the area last night. Very cool...."

On 2011-10-28, Lauri from Queen Creek, Az wrote: "Last night my daughter and I took our golden out for a walk. This was around midnight. At the end of our street, sitting on the lamp post was a huge owl. He followed us home flying and landing on rooftops as he kept an eye on us. Our routine is to play fetch with our dog, in the culdesac to burn off her energy before bed. Tonight we had an audience. He perched on the street post and watched curiously for awhile. He even hung out for a few photos, but they didnt turn out. We live on the outskirts, across from large farm fields, and have been here 4 yrs, but this is the first time we have seen an owl in the neighborhood. I was a little concerned it might attack our dog, but she is really big. This owl had to be full grown, stood majestically proud on that post, and his wing span had to be nearly 5 ft. It was cool. I hope he comes back."

On 2011-11-18, R.J. from 35th Ave/Pinnacle Peak (Phoenix) wrote: "Pair of GHOs heard and seen tonight in neighbor's tree. Definitely worried about my 6.5lb and 2.5lb Yorkies. Is there a way to encourage them to move on to another home?"

On 2012-01-06, from Arizona City wrote: "The other night I was coming home from work around 415am and I thought there was a cat in the middle of the street near my house but as I drove up it had these long wings and flew away- I thought it might have been a vulture? Are owls seriously as big as cats????"

On 2012-01-11, from Maricopa wrote: "Yesterday morning 7am was in the back yard with my 5lb yorkie, heard the owl call could not see it, lulled myself into thinking it was just the call of a very large dove, when it flew over my head about 5feet. Huge wing span luckily my Maggie was at my feet. Worried to let her outside, noticed the pigeons who had taken over the vacant house behind us are all gone. Do owls only hunt during early evening and just before dawn? Is the dog safe outside by herself during daylight hours?"

On 2012-03-13, from Way West Surprise wrote: "Our owl sightings began oddly enough on Halloween night of 2011. This owl is fearless! She frequents the roof of our garage and is a GHO. We take great comfort and pleasure in her being here with us. We respect the fact the we live in her hunting territory. Yes, we have small domesticated animals in our household AND take appropriate measures to protect them. However, we understand these magnificent birds must hunt for food and cannot distinguish a pet from any other prey, such as the abundant rabbit population, ground squirrels and the like. We have named her Tawny. As of March 1, she had another owl friend join her and they called back and forth to one another through the night. It was wonderful to listen to. I think these two might mate. Anyway, I happen to think these birds are majestic and beautiful. If we have owlets join us soon, we will keep you posted. "

On 2012-05-16, from 75th ave/Happy Valley, Terramar wrote: "Back in Feb, I almost lost my 5 pound yorkie to an owl while taking her on a walk. I've seen this owl a few times before, sitting on top of a block fence hooting away. However, this time it was high on top of a two story home we were about to pass on our walk. My daughter was with me and she immediately picked our yorkie up and started carrying her when she saw the owl. I laughed because I thought she was being overly protective...Boy was I wrong. The owl starred intensly at us the entire time we passed and as soon as we got 3-4 houses away I told my daughter it was safe to put the dog down. As soon as she did, our yorkie started running towards our other dog that was with us, a lab mix who was in front of us by about 10 yards. Immediately, this owl launches off the roof and heads strait for our dogs. It dove in quickly for the kill, but turned away at the last second for some reason... I think it might of been either scared by my daughter"s yelling or possibly our lab was too close and too big for the owl's liking...It could of just changed its mind too, who knows????

I'm so thankful I didn't lose our little yorkie. I was a foolish but lucky owner and it was a huge wake-up call for me. I am now more educated on birds of prey(raptors etc)in Arizona and I make sure my dogs are always on a leash (most the time - I quickly let my lab off to run & play).

Lastly, does anyone know if owls or hawks attack/hunt during the day? I'd like to let our yorkie have access to the backyard(via doggie door), but I'm still concerned about a possible daytime attack. Thanks!!

On 2012-07-10, from Phoenix wrote: "One of these owls just got our 11lb dog and killed her two nights dusk. Our girl was out for her last potty before going to bed inside and the next thing we know...she is gone. We found her dead not far from our yard. It appears the owl dropped her. Not sure if our little girl died from shock or impact. We are so sad but glad we found her and glad it was not a coyote since they eat their pray alive. We know it's just nature but it still hurts us very much."

On 2012-07-30, Lynn from Surprise, AZ wrote: "Sorry to hear of everyone losing their pets- I know everyone likes to let their pet in the yard for playtime but around here, you gotta keep your eye on them- either make the time to sit with them while they do their business or take them on a leash. Not optimal but when we live close to nature not much we can do. Don't leave pets outside unattended. Sorry to say it, but block off your pet doors. My cats they stay inside- !"

On 2012-08-11, Brian from WI and AZ wrote: "Strange comments re GHOs taking dogs here. I have never heard of that, although the exception may occur As to cats, as a cat owner, your cats should not be running outside in the first place! Please educate yourselves regarding that..

BTW, a coyote may be responsible for many dog deaths An owl would have to be very desperate to kill an 11 pound dog. A coyote does not necessarily eat the dog it kills, much less the eat it alive biz. They are territorial like a wolf, and just as wolves kill coyotes and dogs for that reason, so will a coyote kill a dog.

Many of these comments read out of the early 20th century.

On 2012-10-19, Irene Baker from Apache Junction wrote: "I have had GHOs in the yard now for quite some time. I have one now. The puzzling thing is the sound that it makes. eek, eek, eek. When I pull in the driveway it calls to me and roosts in several of my trees and watches steely-eyed and listens when I talk to him/her? A friend saw a baby (I missed it) in the tree also. Several years ago, we had a pair in the area and one was on the top of one of our electric poles and the other flew around screaming at the other to follow. This went on for a couple of days. We then had SRP come and take the dead mate down. Still the mate flew for a few more hours screaming and then finally flew off. Very sad."


On 2012-12-25, from Tempe wrote: "I have heard hooting of owls all this past fall. This is now December of 2012. I think there were two of them . I went out to look but could not find them. We have big pine trees here."

On 2013-01-23, Mark from Surprise wrote: "We have 2 GHO's roosting daily in our back yard. They are beautiful birds and are not afraid of us at all. I am afraid they are sizing up my little yorkie and my bichon mix. Gonna give Game and Fish a call to try to get rid of them."

On 2013-03-02, ruth anne from ne phoenix wrote: "i live in a 55+ residential area with the common area directly behind my house. for the past 1.5 yrs there has been a pair of owls. i assume they are great horned owls.blend in great in the huges trees with their white bib being the most noticeable. hear them alot at night and generally see them at dusk. truly beautiful! male has approx 5 ft wingspan and the female is a little smaller. lost a rabbit in the common area last summer (down to 3). re pets, they shouldn't be running loose anyway, so no sympathy there. i vote for the owls! magestic animals! "

On 2013-03-16, from Scottsdale, Arizoma wrote: "I have been in the backyard with my 3 miniature Dachshunds when not only were my Dachshunds attacked but this Green Horn with this huge wing span smacked me up side the head while trying to get to one of my dogs. Then while it hoovered I was able to grab it's other wing and fling this owl over to my neighbors yard. Has anyone in Arizona been attacked by an owl while it tried to get to your dog or cat. When a person or animal on your property starts being attacked by an owl or any other animal don't we have the right to respond and defend ourselves? Are we allowed to kill that owl or mountain lion or bobcat or what ever. I do have a gun but have kept the locked away. Clearly the law must state we are allowed to protect ourselves, our animals and our children from any type of animal."

On 2013-05-26, Lorri Troxell from Parker,AZ wrote: "I have rescued baby owls that fall from their nests, raised and released so I am not sure which ones around my house I helped. But I have two cats that go in and out all times of the day, do keep them in at dark because of coyotes. Owls sit in my palm trees all the time and have never gone for my cats. I do believe if they can't find rodents or rabbits, cats will do just lucky lots of both here. I have created nesting boxes up in my palms (24palms)have nested three trees and they get used.

On 2014-04-02, Mike from Maricopa (glennwilde) wrote: "great horned owl sighting in backyard, watch your small pets closely. brian from WI & AZ quit being a snob, people are just trying to help!"

On 2014-04-08, from Phoenix wrote: "I got to this site by accident and I am shocked at how many people let small animals outside! It is a matter of time before they are killed by a coyote or owl. Maybe it's been 5 years and nothing has happened YET, but it will! Coyotes and owls are out ALL TIMES OF THE DAY! Not only at night. I see coyotes and owls hunting at noon, 3:30pm etc. every day. To Lori Troxwell from Parker put up a nesting box for owls in your yard and let your cats out during the day?? Your post was almost a year ago. Are your cats still alive? Have they been attacked yet? Please protect them and keep them inside all the time. Coyotes can jump a 16 foot wall. Your cats have no idea of the dangers so it's your job to save them."

On 2014-04-13, Cindy from wrote: "We'll color me gray! I have just become aware of 2GHO in our back yard & neighborhood! They come out just after dusk and sit, and when it gets just dark, they fly off, hunting for dinner. Now, for those who have cats that just roam, we'll you're just asking for trouble, and if it's GHO or a fast car, you deserve what you get. To the small dog owners, and cat owners, the fact is, they were here first. And yes, we have built nice homes, with nice schools, and so on, but the. GHO remains. So, let us try to get along."

On 2014-10-16, Joe C from Northwest Valley Pleasant Valley wrote: "I read each and every post on here. I have lived in my house for about ten years and for the first six years we never saw any owls. All of a sudden one owl moved in, then two,three and who knows how many. I heard of about five dogs being killed from an unknown predator. We had a family (about 8) of wild cats living out of the storm drain and there is only one left. Our dog was a King Charles Cavalier and about 18 lbs. He was a great dog. We spent two years training him in classes. We also have another cavalier and a chihuahua. We never let them out at night or morning except one morning at dawn my daughter let him out to go to the bathroom and forgot to bring him right back in. We found him dead 30 minutes later. All his soft tissue was eaten and the body was left. Sorry for the candid description. I was told by everyone that it could not be an owl, it was a coyote. The problem is I found a large owl feature laying next to my dogs body. Within a week, two small poodles were killed two doors down at the same time in the morning. I sent an email out to the neighborhood to get all the information possible. I found that our neighborhood had about 20 dead dogs in the past couple years. Some assumed coyote and other knew it was owls. These owls kill dogs and cats. The largest dog was close to 30 lbs. I called game and fish and they said there was nothing to do. I found a family who had an owl attack their dog at 10:30am. The dog was outside and the son saw the owl tying to kill the dog and he ran outside to save the dog. The dog ran under the trampoline to get away and the kid stayed between the dog and owl until it gave up. This dog was lucky and the owl was not afraid of people. It was during the day which is unusual. I write this to tell everyone that owls are dangerous. Yes we move into their habitats and they move into ours. The problem I have is this is life and death for the owls and they prey on ordinary house pets who's not looking for animals to kill them. They are completely unaware that another animal is going to kill them. These birds are protected and growing in numbers. They are moving into all urban areas killing easy house pets. Once they kill dogs and cats they will continue. Then you have people like above who think it is cool to feed them, to help create nests and habitats for them to use. Yes these owls are killing your neighbors animals and your cleaning up the pallets of your neighbors dead dogs and cats. Just be careful with your animals day and night. They need us to protect them. We tried to protect our dogs 100% of the time and the owl still got to him. We had one friend who had a coyote take a dog right off the leash 5 feet from the owner. Just be careful, do not feed them, scare them away no matter how pretty or majestic they are. I now live in a neighborhood infested with owls and there is nothing I can do when more and more dogs and cats die. "

On 2014-11-05, Windy C. from Chandler, Arizona wrote: "Wow! So glad I stumbled upon this site. It's Fall and we just brought home a new toy poodle. She's pretty small so we have been training her mostly indoors. We started taking her out back to get her used to going outdoors..all going well until my son said he had a hard time sleeping because an owl was keeping him up.. I laughed and said it was most likely a mourning dove.. We have been in our home going on 10 yrs. and haven't seen any owls since we built our home. That was one time and never again. Two nights later, my youngest son asked me to turn television volume down because he heard a strange sound.. Well it was an owl hooting. I also noticed all the birds are gone! We back up to a common area ( park with lots of trees) so birds are abundant in our backyard. I'm assuming Owls have taken up residence in the tress behind our home. I'm not taking any chances. So sorry to hear that so many people have lost their dear pets..I will take heed of all the warnings and valuable information I just read and hope more people will find this info before it's too late.. Love nature and it's wildlife just be cautious. Thanks. "

On 2014-11-08, JLIMOK wrote: "I have an owl that I have just noticed in my palm tree. It is at least two feet tall and has a tremendous wing span. I am so happy it choose my home as his!"

On 2015-08-19, Jim from Dolan Springs, AZ wrote: "To my delight and info from this forum. I have a owl(s) 'hooting' around my property but did not know GHO were in my area. Sitting on my porch last evening (twilight), I had a visitor silently swoop in on my 'critter' water bowel. I did not move as did not want it to fly off. Had a bit of problem not sure what it was..very large and fat feathered.. it fed and silently flew off. They must swoop in and take off a very low angle. Wow! Another creature recorded for me. My closest neighbor property has a large willow tree, I just have a lot of Josuhas, so not really sure where I am hearing the hoots from. I just hope they stay."

On 2015-10-24, Cynthia from NW Tucson, AZ wrote: "Well, here's my story. I've lived in my house for 11 yrs. and I've seen a few GHO's over the years, but never imagined it to really attack my dog! I was wrong, my 14 yr old, 7 lb Chiuwawaha went outside thru a doggie door early in the morning, and never came back in, just vanished in thin air! Three days later in the early morning hours again I noticed a GHO hanging around in an Ironwood tree about 20 ft from where my dog disappeared. I'm positive he was the culprit coming back for more! They're beautiful, but my dog was my baby after 14 yrs! Just the thought of what she went thru kills me! They're vicious!!"

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