Watching Baby Great Horned Owls Fledge

Watching Baby Great Horned Owls Fledge

We’ve been enjoying three great horned owl fledglings on the golf course near our home. Have some photos and info from an ornithologist below….

At dusk a number of people walk under their trees oblivious to them being right above their heads – we were too until last week when I noticed two light colored owls fly from a home next to the golfcourse up to the 60 foot deodar cedars on the other side of the walking path. My husband and I have been watching them at dusk and have witnessed how flying is a difficult skill, especially flying off the ground. We saw one trying to lift off without success and thought it was caught in some mesh or something – but when we got closer it found the energy to succeed. It flew off in the direction of the pond, where we had seen killdeer and their nestlings weeks before. We sure heard the unique killdeer calls after it flew into their area.

Last time we went, we found mom (or dad in a nearby tree in sight of her young). This pair apparently nests in the area every year – sometimes on the ramada of the yard I saw them in. So I’m sure she’s gone through this routine before.

Baby Great Horned Owls are:

  • lighter in color, make rasping whine (which is what alerted me)
  • lack the ear tufts
  • 2-4  are average, but depends on the food supply

More info below from Claude Edwards, a San Diego ornithologist, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology  First, some photos:

My takeaway – look up! and around you. As you never know what’s in your midst.

Other info:

  • Nationwide populations of Great Horned Owls are increasing
  • Large variety of prey: They eat mostly rodents (a reason to be careful w/ rodenticide – see my Rodent Poison post) and small rabbits, but according to bird expert Claude Edwards, they can take mammals and birds up to 3 times their weight  (so the neighbor who saw one grab a cat and fly off with it was right – another reason to keep cats indoors….)  Claude saw one take a red-shouldered hawk (big -17 inches ….)
  • Ann Hobbs of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – a great resource, added that  worms (Annelida) and grasshoppers (Orthoptera) are food, up to birds weighing >2,500 g (e.g., Great Blue Heron [Ardea herodias]).

 

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.

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