H is for horking

Horking means to gobble down food, to eat fast, or greedily, not sharing with anyone. When we say a raptor horks down its dinner, we mean that it ate the entire prey item whole. The birds will hold their head up so that the esophagus is clear and literally move their muscles swallowing the food whole. Remember that Great Horned Owls have exceptionally wide esophagi when you look at the following sequence of images.

In the image below, Clyde has brought a mouse to Bonnie so she can feed the two owlets. Bonnie takes it as normal and is goes to lay it down on the nest as she always does. Typically, Bonnie will break off pieces of meat to feed to the two babies at intervals.

In the image below, Clyde is still on the nest. Bonnie is looking down at one of the owlets who seems particularly interesting in eating that fresh mouse.

Clyde has left and much to the shock of Bonnie the owlet is ‘horking’ the mouse. In the image below the mouse is about half way into the owlets mouth and down its esophagus.

Bonnie looks on in shock. Only a small portion of the mouse extends out of her chicks mouth.

Bonnie is unsettled by her baby horking the entire mouse. She might have worried that it would have choked or stopped breathing. So, Bonnie pulls the entire mouse out of the owlet’s mouth and esophagus! In the image below Bonnie has it in her beak.

The owlet still wants the mouse and grabs it with its beak.

This sequence of events is all happening within two minutes. The owlet has the mouse again and is horking it, hurrying as fast as it can so Bonnie will not take it away again.

Bonnie looks on as her baby finishes eating the mouse whole. The owlets were born on 7 March and are only twelve days old today.

It is best to see ‘horking’ than to just read the words. Sometimes it is quite surprising what the raptors can eat whole. Once Big Red and Arthur have their eyases, you will get to see what it is like for a chipmunk to be horked whole.

Today’s word: hork, horked, horking was brought to you by the Great Horned Owls, Bonnie and Clyde who stole a Bald Eagle nest on a farm in Kansas and their two owlets. It looks like Clyde is going to have to find more and more mice!

Thank you to Farmer Derek for the streaming cam where these scaps were taken!

Take care everyone.

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