Great Horned Owl feeding on a Barred Owl

This afternoon, Anna and I had just discovered an American Kestrel nest in a natural cavity in western Marion County, FL when I heard the calls of a number of angry American Crows nearby. I could hear that the crows were congregated in the top of a nearby tree, and I knew they must be harassing a raptor of some sort. Needless to say, I couldn’t help but go take a look. I was hoping for a Great Horned Owl since it would be a new county bird for me and was excited to see a large, probable female Great Horned Owl flush out of the tree and take off towards another tree. As soon as the owl flew, I could see it had something in its talons. In my binos, I could make out the very obvious shape and coloration of the wing, tail, and part of the body of a Barred Owl! Once the Great Horned landed in the second tree, I ran to get my camera but sadly the owl was a little too distant and at a bad angle for trying to get a good photo – however, in the one photo I did take, you can clearly see the wing of the dead Barred Owl.

Great Horned Owl feeding on a dead Barred Owl – look closely to see the wing of the Barred Owl (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

It’s no secret that Great Horned Owls are able to kill almost anything including other raptors, but like most raptors they also commonly scavenge on roadkill. What are your opinions on this situation? – Did the owl kill the Barred Owl or did it find the owl dead and decide to take advantage of the free food? Obviously we can never know for sure, but it’s sure interesting to think about! Also, for all you owl fans out there – here is a link to a Photo Study that I put together last spring with more Great Horned Owl photos!