The Great Horned Owl, named for its ear tufts, is the largest owl in the area. Its call is the familiar "Hoo hoo-hoo hoo hoooo." They become active at dusk and hunt through the night. Large birds to begin with, a great horned owl can capture and kill prey 3 times heavier than its own weight — including housecats and small dogs.
Great horned owls are often reported in and around Davis. One prominent specimen, dubbed the "East Davis Owl" was regularly seen and heard in the neighborhoods along Pole Line, between 5th and 8th streets, during the spring of 2007. In recent years, owls have been spotted in parks around Davis and in the arboretum.
Here is an audio clip of great horned owls making their characteristic call, recorded in February 2012 near Piñon Apartments:
2007-05-12 17:37:02 I saw the Great Horned Owl in April along the East Davis greenbelt, west of Mace Ranch park. It was sitting up in a tree hooting. —AlexPomeranz
2008-04-18 21:15:16 A Great Horned Owl is also heard pretty frequently near the Domes, Orchard Park, and Russell Park. It roosts in the Oaks that line Orchard Park Drive and often hunts in the community gardens and fields behind the Bike Church. —E.O'B.
2008-04-18 22:08:45 I think I've heard the East Davis owl mentioned above several times, in the vicinity of Donner and Pole Line. I saw large owl flying overhead one night in March 2008, just below tree-top height. —DukeMcAdow
- 2009-08-27 On the way to work this morning, I saw what looked like a large owl lying dead between lanes on Covell. I hope I'm wrong. —DukeMcAdow
2008-09-22 11:23:03 I thought I heard one of these creatures last night at Russell Park... but maybe it was just one of the many drunk freshmen out on the street. —susiekim
2010-03-15 19:33:30 A great horned owl swooped down and snatched cyclist Levi Leipheimer's Chihuahua, Trooper. The dog was presumed to have been killed. Their other dog was attacked and left bloody. It is best to keep small dogs indoors at night. —MaxLucas
2010-03-15 21:29:10 I heard one this evening, along Putah Creek just south of the airport. —JimStewart
2010-06-01 21:58:59 Our neighbor found a baby great horned! On the corner of 8th and Oak, so it may have fallen out of the willow tree there. It was the cutest/most beautiful/most fearless little thing ever — grey and puffy, and with HUGE eyes. Lucky to have seen it. Now it's recuperating well at the campus Raptor Center. —jmofro
2012-06-15 23:03:12 a thin all white cat disappeared Monday - June 11, 2012 from the apartments behind the shopping center on Lake Blvd. in West Davis. I often hear the horned owls fly by in this area - they make a clicking sound. Could the owls possibly have taken the white cat? I think an all white cat would be especially visible in the dark. Please advise. —nanturner
- Great Horned Owls are certainly capable of catching a cat, though it would be difficult for them to fly away with it. They're known to eat other small mammals like skunks, but given the abundance of rats, mice, birds, frogs and everything else in Davis they're probably more inclined to go after prey that doesn't have retractable claws. Cars, coons, dogs, and other cats are more significant threats. — mikeycrews
2014-03-17 00:16:45 I heard and saw one shortly after midnight near Sycamore Park, perched atop a tree. It was pretty majestic with its silhouette against the moonlight. — AlexTK
2014-10-06 22:47:53 I heard two Great Horned Owls above me in the trees at about 10 PM, north of Sycamore park. Unfortunately, it was too dark to see them. —RobertSherwood
2014-10-13 11:12:22 I saw one this morning off of Manet. It checked me out, then eyed my small dogs, then went back to sleep. (I am hoping it decided my 12 lb dogs are too big to be prey.) —JessicaWeberMilne
2014-10-13 16:53:39 @ JessicaWeberMilne Haha. That look on Mrs. Owl's face!: sidelong glance over the shoulder, "I'm watching YOU Bro!" —ConstantiaOomen
2014-10-13 17:13:46 That's AMAZING, I see a SECOND owl! —ConstantiaOomen
2015-05-29 07:13:34 Heard one early this morning in West Davis, it was perching on top of a conifer tree! —ATK
2016-11-14 07:16:15 (4am in Davis on the night of a super moon): Great horned owl has been hooting outside my apartment for at least an hour near Cowell and El Cemonte. I could hear the call clearly from inside the house, went outside and got closer, but couldn't see anything in the dark. There are a lot of large trees on our rental and the neighboring houses, so perfect spot for a bird to hang out. I got a recording of the call and compared it to online audio of other owl calls to determine it was the Great Horned Owl. Very excited to check out the scene in daylight and try to get a glimpse of this guy in the future. —Davisnoob
2018-05-01 20:16:41 As of April 2018, there is an owl that lives on the far end of the UC Davis Arboretum near the Equestrian Center. He can be heard calling in the evenings. ~~~~ —connorology