Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Nesting Owls

One afternoon while the wind was blowing hard, I was picking up sticks in the yard. I noticed a feather moving up in the crotch of a big poplar tree. I looked closer. And lo and behold, I saw a Great Horned Owl sitting there.

Now, we frequently have owls in our yard, but they usually fly away when we get within 20 meters. This one stayed. A hint of a suspicion starting forming in my mind. The next day I went back out, and she was still there. Now I was convinced. This was a mama Great Horned Owl, and she was sitting on her eggs.

I looked up information about nesting Great Horned Owls and found some really interesting information from a Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird cam site. The owl lays 1-4 eggs, each one a few days apart. Then she sits on (incubates) them for 30-37 days. During this time, she stays on the nest for pretty much the whole time, as she has a special featherless brood patch that keeps the eggs warm. Her mate catches food and brings it to her.

I was expecting to be watching the well-camoflauged mama for a few weeks. But just one week later, I saw some extra movement in the nest. An owlet had hatched!
It was small, but the beak was easy to distinguish. And by the way, I'm taking all these photos with a zoom lens at 400mm, a crop sensor camera, and then cropping the photos in post-processing. So even though it looks like I'm right there, I'm standing way back.

Just the next night, the owlet looked so much bigger. The owls are born covered in white down. About a week later, they start getting some colored feathers. At three weeks they will start developing ear tufts. And at 6-7 weeks, they will leave the nest.

Mama owl has her back to the owlet; she seems to change position a lot. And while I was watching there was a little bit of activity on the side. Another owlet! I couldn't get a good photo due to low light levels, but I'll share a photo soon.

It's so much fun to have all this activity right in the backyard. We've had owls nest nearby, but never right in the yard (to our knowledge). Stay tuned for more owl photos!

1 comment:

Upriverdavid said...

Awwwwww........So cute....Long story but a zillion years ago I had an owl as my roommate in Seattle when I was a kid..

All the neighbor kids wanted to come over for a visit. He / she just showed up in our backyard one day..A couple of months later I left the owl in his / her box in the yard and it flew away..

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