Great Horned Owls
By: Pat Coate
While in Florida we had the great pleasure of discovering the nest of a pair of Great Horned Owls near my parents’ condo. My parents had been hearing owls in the evenings and had seen owls nesting in the area a few years ago, but weren’t quite sure if and where the nest was this year.
Persistence and binoculars paid off as we found a few feathers up in a split of a live oak tree right across the street. Searching up from the feathers deeper into the crook of the tree led to the tip of not one but two baby owls’ heads.
My dad called this week to say that the babies are beginning to venture out of the nest and are climbing on nearby branches. So they are probably about 6-7 weeks old. Per Stokes Nature Guides, the fledglings will be dependent on the parents for food until they are about 5 months old.
We got glimpses of both parents as they made occasional appearances in nearby trees. They were probably close by most of the time but were very difficult to find as they blend in so well. The lead photo was taken at dusk as the parent owl was bringing food (squirrel?) to the babies. Per the various field guides, Great Horned Owls feed mostly on mammals but will also go after other owls, osprey, raptors, crows and heron.
The picture directly above was taken in the afternoon of the parent keeping a close eye on things. These pictures were taken with telephoto lens as I had no desire to upset the owner of those most impressive talons.
Great Horned Owls don’t build their own nests. They will use one another bird has been kind enough to build, like a hawk or an eagle; or they will use a natural nesting location like the splitting of this tree.
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