Great Horned Owl Ventriloquist

Let me set the scene for the Great Horned Owl Ventriloquist act. I had been following a flock of songbirds – sparrows, chickadees, and cardinals – for about a half hour. The usual group of 4-5 crows had been hanging around along with 7-8 of their Blue Jay buddies.

They had been chasing and calling at each other. In other words normal corvid stuff. I was going to call it a day when the crows started calling louder and heading towards the woods. Had they found something to harass?

The calls tempo and volume increased, so I decide they must have something cornered and start heading that direction. Now these would be the same woods I was running out of two weeks ago.

While jogging I hear the repeated call of a Red-shouldered Hawk. So that’s what they’re harassing. But arriving on the scene and getting a clear line of sight, I see the Red-shouldered Hawk has ears!

Great Horned Owl Ventriloquist
This photo of the Great Horned Owl was lifted and lightened from the video I shot.

A check through the binoculars and I’m correct, a Great Horned Owl! But the Red-shouldered Hawk is still calling to the right?

I’m confused??

The scene continues a few more minutes, crows calling, the owl sitting, and the hawk calling to the right.

Following is spliced video I took of the owl, hawk, and crows. Remember to turn up your volume.


That’s when I figure out the Great Horned Owl Ventriloquist Act is the greatest ever. Not only is he doing a great Red-shouldered Hawk call but he is throwing his voice in hope the crows will go elsewhere.

But of course we know American Crows are the smartest animal alive and don’t easily fall for that sort of foolery. They continue to mob the owl which doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave.

Of course the crows’ squawking doesn’t bother the Great Horned Owl. But I make one move to get a clear line of sight and the owl flies. The owl flies out of sight with the crows in tow to a distant tree line. This is now going on 20 minutes and I wonder how long the crows will stay at it?

In the end I’m still confused.

While jogging to the scene I saw the local Red-shouldered Hawk flying to the other end the woods. So was there another Red-shouldered Hawk by the crows and owl? Or was there a Blue Jay doing a great imitation?

One of those birding things I’ll never know.

But it was exciting.

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