The Owls Are Not What They Seem

Bob Haynie sent me this note, along with recent pictures of a different owl, from Washington State:

"I have been buzzed by two owls in my years here and it was impressive. When Peggy and I were driving down the hill once to the lower valley, one came zooming up along the hill and cut in front of the car’s passenger-side headlight. He swooped up into a tree and we stopped and looked at him for a while.

"About 10 years ago, we were coming home from a movie in Ellensburg one night and one did the same thing: swooped up just above ground level, came over the edge of the hill on the right side of the car, and shot past the passenger-side headlight. Startled the hell out of me. The speed limit on that road is 65 and I am sure I was doing it, as I always do. I told this to a raptor-specialist lady up in Traverse City and she gave me that 'You poor misguided fool' look and said it was impossible. All I could say was: nevertheless."


  1. I believe it's accepted that in level flight a great horned can do 45, but it would be interesting to know what the wind conditions were that night or if a large semi, for example, had passed and the owl had been able to catch the airstream--also, for a short burst, it might be possible for an owl to attain a speed substantially in excess of normal.

    Raptor "specialists" are often themselves among the more misguided, out-of-touch people when it comes to their own subject. Much as is the case with wolf people, they are sometimes so frantic to ensure that we don't turn back the clock fifty years with people taking potshots at hawks and owls that they wind up making egregious claims about the sort of prey the birds take or their strength or speed or other capabilities, downplaying them to an extent where if eagles and hawks were really as poor hunters as described, they would have all starved to death long ago.


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