Posted by: atowhee | December 8, 2019


This photo was taken by Mel Clements, one of Jackson County’s Great Owl aficionados.  He and Lee French spotted this bird last week in the Cascades at about 4500 feet elevation, in fresh snow:Great Gray hunting

From Lee French: “Mel and I got lucky recently with a up close viewing of a Great Gray Owl hunting. We saw it right by the road on a tall stump. It flew off into the woods, returned to the same perch and did a snow plunge about 30 feet away from us…Too bad it didn’t catch anything; would have made a great sequence.”

From Mel Clements: “The snow ‘plunge’ was at least 5 inches [deep]. Too bad I could not get closer to measure it, but I was actually stuck in that snow bank and I was over joyed to be able to finally turn around and work my way back to the roadway.”

We know that Great Gray Owls can catch unseen prey they hear beneath the snow.  If there is a crust the owl will use its very cushioned head (layers of soft feathers) to crack through the crust, then whip the talons up to the indentation for the grab.  The head battering ram is a tactic to prevent injury to the all-important bare legs and talons.  A broken foot would likely lead to starvation and death.  The head is like a small hammer coated with layers of padding.


  1. Great post. Thanks!

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