Deep in the middle of winter, Great Horned Owls are already planning for chicks. Pairs begin singing duets in November to strengthen their bond before the first eggs are laid in late January or February. It is difficult to distinguish males and females in daylight since they have the same plumage (and females are slightly larger), but their calls provide hints once the sun goes down. The owls take turns calling into the night, repeating a phrase that sounds like “Who’s awake? Me too.” These calls are usually very distinct; males have a low-pitched voice compared to the female.
We are fairly sure that our Great Horned Owl, Theo, is a male based on his body weight, but the true test will be comparing his voice to another owl. Jayme, Living Collections Assistant, heard two Great Horned Owls, probably Theo and a wild bird, conversing in Cable earlier this week. We’ll have to listen again to find out if he is courting a high-pitched female or defending his territory against another deep-voiced male.