Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 04/14/2015

Photo taken on April 27, 2014

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Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus
rim of nesting tree
two days before they fledged
bird of prey
27 April 2014

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Remembering happy times

Remembering happy times
Almost exactly ONE YEAR AGO, on 27 April 2014, I called in to see the family of Great Horned Owls in a local park and finally got to see the two owlets up on the rim of the nesting cavity. The last time I had seen them, just their heads were visible inside the nest. Various friends had been posting photos of these youngsters climbing up on top of the broken tree, so I knew that if I didn't go very soon, the owlets would have fledged to a different tree and then would be difficult or impossible to photograph. It turned out that these two fluffy owlets did fledge, a couple of days after I took this photo.

The reason that I'm posting this photo is that, sadly, the Great Horned Owl pair that has nested at this location for quite a few years, has had an unsuccessful breeding season this year (2015). We aren't sure what happened, as we did see the male sitting in a tree near the nesting tree and we did see the top of the female's head fairly recently. Then, suddenly, I heard that people were seeing both adults sitting in nearby trees. I have only been down there maybe a couple of very brief times in at least the last couple of months. Maybe people who are there for many hours, day after day, actually saw something happen? Apparently, someone did report seeing three adults in that area recently. Or maybe the eggs did not successfully hatch, or maybe they did hatch and the tiny owlets picked up some infection from deep down in the nesting tree? Feel sad for the adult owls, and I know hundreds, if not thousands, of people will also be feeling sad and so disappointed. These owls have given us so much enjoyment over the years. Hopefully, next year, if the owls stay at this location, they will have a much more successful and happier breeding season.

"With its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself, but it also dines on daintier fare such as tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs. It’s one of the most common owls in North America, equally at home in deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities, and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics.

Great Horned Owls are nocturnal. You may see them at dusk sitting on fence posts or tree limbs at the edges of open areas, or flying across roads or fields with stiff, deep beats of their rounded wings. Their call is a deep, stuttering series of four to five hoots." From AllAboutBirds.