We almost walked right past this young Great Horned Owl sitting on a low branch, even though he was less than 20 feet away. It was nearly sunset and he blended right in with the trees. As the sun sank below the horizon, we heard loud, nervous quacking and soon realized that TWO young Owls were eyeing a Mottled Duck family on the pond below.
The first owl flew across the small patch of algae-covered water and landed on a precariously tiny perch on the tree across from us, while his sibling also peered down at the ducks from a nearby tree. Much to our astonishment, both juvenile Great Horned Owls started flying low, back and forth across the pond, “buzzing” the ducks each time – they seemed quite intent on catching one!Great Horned Owls’ diet consists mostly of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds. They don’t generally dive for prey that are sitting in the water, yet here they were, taking turns diving straight toward the ducks, over and over. We couldn’t understand why the mother duck didn’t make a beeline out of there with her ducklings. What would happen if they actually caught one of the ducklings?? Would the Owl get stranded? How would he fly back up from the surface of the water?? Their talons are not exactly designed for swimming! We later read that if Owls do land in the water, they apparently can’t get out till they reach the shoreline (Audubon, Can Owls Swim? . . . . As it grew much darker,we heard the parent Owls hooting from the other side of the woods. The juveniles eventually gave up on their quest for a duck dinner and flew off.The little Mottled Duck family remained unscathed by the whole affair, and happily swam off once the Owls were gone. Perhaps they knew all along that being “sitting ducks” on the pond was the safest place to be 🙂