Great Horned Owl


2012-12-02 – Our afternoon walk ended at the early dusk. Four miles, round trip along the North Shore Sanitary Canal. Then off to a dinner of kebabs and rice.

Along the way we were startled by the aggressive cawing of crows and we looked to see what was the matter, high in the trees along our walk. It was dark and all we could see was were the silhouettes of crows against the western twilight sky apparently attacking a dark spot in the branches.

“What’s going on?” I asked Kit.

“Don’t know,” she replied. Then she said, “It’s an owl!”

I looked up into the darkness of the branches. A large bird with a wide head with “horns” rose up and began to fly away.

It was an owl.

Neither of us knew what was going on with the crows and the owl, but I looked it up. It’s apparently common for a murder of crows (yes, “murder” is the collective noun for crows – like a gaggle of geese) . . . it’s common for a murder of crows to attack a solitary owl. Crows are often prey for owls, but they launch preemptive attacks when they have the advantage of numbers. So, I guess this is what we were seeing.

A good outcome for crows coming out of these encounters is that the owl leaves the area (not that they kill the owl). These were big crows, but the owl was bigger. And that’s exactly what happened. The owl flew away not to be bothered. We don’t know what happened to the crows. I supposed they remained in the area, but were less noisy with the owl gone.

It was dark.

And because it was dark, we couldn’t really see the coloring of the feathers. Just the shape and size. I checked out the list of common owls in northern Illinois, and the common large bird with “horns” is the Great Horned Owl. Most of Illinois owls have round heads. So that’s what I’m guessing we saw: a Great Horned Owl.

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