No duck for dinner

P1010918We 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. P1010958As 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. P1010932Much 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!P1010975Great 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. P1010967What 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? . . . . P1010974As 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.P1010960The 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  🙂

 

22 thoughts on “No duck for dinner

  1. Delightful post, BJ. This is one of the reasons watching wildlife is so much fun: it’s unpredictable. I would’ve thought the ducklings were dinner too, but the mother was obviously not worried. I love this time of year when juvenile birds are out because there is almost always something quirky happening. What a great find you had, thanks for sharing it.

    • Thank you, Jet, for your very thoughtfully written and kind words. I love what you said about the juveniles. Just last night we were watching a juvenile night heron and commenting on the fact that they can be so much more animated than their often rather ‘staid’ parents. Fun to watch them learning about the ways of the world 🙂

  2. Interesting post BJ, the owls must have been young and desperate to be going for a waterbird on the water. I would have thought they could snatch them from the water, but maybe there was a risk factor:-)

    • Thanks, AB! As you can see in the photos, the pond was almost completely covered with algae or duckweed. Perhaps these young owls were too inexperienced to realize that the ducks were actually sitting on water! We are so fortunate to have watched them practice learning to fly, and now, practice learning to hunt!

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