Night Visitor

Twice last week we were visited in the middle of the night by a young large owl. The first time, Mike was just coming to bed when he noticed it sitting on a tree branch about 15 feet away from our front windows. He got me out of bed, and as we crept to the window, the owl up and flew–wham!–into it. It hadn’t gained much momentum, being so close to begin with, and it’s a good thing.

The owl returned to the branch where it juked and jived, twisted and turned, checking out the house. Those fixed eyes make for some interesting movements. (An owl’s eyes don’t move in their sockets. To shift its eyes, an owl must turn its whole head. Weird, eh?) Something inside or reflected in the windows had its attention because it came and hovered as best it could in front of the window again. It was dark inside, but the computer and router and UPS (power backup) have little lights. It didn’t seem aware of us. Then it went back to the branch.

After a bit it seemed to spot us. It “cheeped”–I am not making this up. It was not an owl-y call, but a babyish call. It looked young, too, mottled and nondescript. Eventually, it flew away.

Our first thought was that it was a young great gray owl because it didn’t have the “horns” of the great horned owl. Those are really the only possibilities.


This is an adult great gray owl. Is that wild or what? We spotted it sitting in a tree in the Yukon on a drive (driving full speed, mind you) from AK to WA. Early morning, but broad daylight because it’s June, hence the decent picture. It allowed Mike to wander directly beneath it.

A few nights after the first sighting, I got up at 2:30 a.m. and found the owl again on the tree branch! (I check most nights now, but haven’t seen it again.) This time, we tried to positively ID it, rather than just gape at it. I’m pretty sure it’s an immature great horned owl, with the horns simply not apparent yet.

It makes sense. We regularly hear great horned owls, but not great gray owls. Du-uh. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good picture of a horned owl. Mike has one from a winter in Denali, but it was dusky, so it’s not the best. I’ve been asking him to dig it out and scan it; we’ll see if he does.

We tried to take a picture of this youngster, but it was too dark and I didn’t want to scare it with a flash. Click here to see random images of great horned owls.

Owls are cool!

Categories: Alaska

3 replies »

  1. What a cool sighting, and up close! I want to see a Great Gray Owl so desperately.

  2. Hi Jen –

    Great sighting! I know there is a well documented Great Gray Owl nest at a RV park – I think it’s close to Glennallen – so too far away to be from that nest.


  3. Yeah, I really think it’s a great *horned* owl. I’m still looking for it most nights, but haven’t seen it.

    Ebony and I heard a strange call one afternoon this week and it continued so long that we decided to investigate. It was similar to the “cheep” sound the owl made, but really strong and loud, seeming to come from something big rather than small. Yeah, yeah, some small birds have big calls and the bald eagle is big but has a wimpy call. Still…maybe… Of course when we got outside the calling stopped. We didn’t locate the source.