Park After Dark: Great Mysteries Uncovered

July 28, 2017 Posted by: Nicole Ornelas
One afternoon, while searching for a rare plant species, Aphanisma blitoides, our park rangers noticed something interesting on the ground. It was indigestible material left from an owl, also known as owl pellets. Owl pellets consist of teeth, skulls, claws and feathers that are too dangerous to pass through the rest of the owl’s digestive tract, so it must be regurgitated. Out of curiosity, the ranger placed a camera trap in the area to see if we could spot the culprit.

The Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, sitting on a large wooden poleNPS Photo

After reviewing the footage, a beautiful Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, appeared on a wooden post in the sight line of the camera trap. Great Horned Owls are distinguishable by their long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare and deep hooting voice. They are the largest common owl seen throughout North America and are known to be powerful predators. This nocturnal species has been witnessed taking down birds and mammals that are larger than themselves!

During the day time footage, another creature was revealed. On the same wooden post as the Great Horned Owl, an Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, was now spotted. This raptor is typically seen hunting over the shoreline at Cabrillo National Monument. Its diet consists mostly of fish as it has a unique ability to dive into the water and sink its large talons deep into its prey. Ospreys are the only large raptor with an extensive, unmarked white coloration on their belly. Next time you are at Cabrillo National Monument, see if you can spot one soaring near the tidepools.

A large Osprey sitting on a poleNPS Photo

During collection of the camera trap footage, rangers noticed something interesting just behind the camera. It was distinct kill remains of a Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus. Peregrine Falcons are making an incredible rebound after being virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning (DDT) in the mid-20th century. Therefore, after noticing that our Peregrine Falcons were feeding nearby, rangers decided to remove the camera trap from that area in hopes to not cause more human disturbance. Learn more about our Peregrine Falcons by visiting


Park After Dark, Science, Education, Natural Resources, Camera Trap, Great Horned Owl, Osprey, Peregrine Falcons

Last updated: July 28, 2017

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