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April 20, 2013 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Great Horned Owl Nest

A pair of Great-horned Owls are nesting on a golf course adjacent to one of the parks where I frequently go on bird walks. Last Saturday the group received permission to venture out on the golf course to see the nest.

Great-horned Owl Nest

We were able to observe the mother and two owlets high up in the tree. In the zoomed-in shot above you can clearly see the mom and the older owlet and just make out the younger owlet to the right.

Interesting Facts

Great Horned Owl Nest

  • The Great Horned Owl does not make its own nest and typically takes over nests in trees made by other bird species. This nest looks like it previously belonged to a hawk. (click for larger view)
  • This is one of the most common owls and is found across most of North America and parts of Central America.
  • They can often be heard in suburban backyards calling a territorial “hoo-hoo-hoooooo” that will carry for miles.
  • They are not migratory and most individuals are permanent residents although they may move when food is scarce.
  • They are primarily nocturnal hunters and will eat whatever food is available including mammals and other birds.

An Owl Pellet

Owls usually swallow their prey whole and it is dissolved by their digestive system. Parts that can’t be digested such as fur, bones, teeth and claws are compacted into a pellet which the owl will eject by coughing it back up.

Owl Pellet

We found several pellets in the area but this one was the largest. It was composed of a lot of fur and fairly large bones. A few of the more experienced birders in my group speculated it was a skunk. The Great Horned Owl is one of the few animals that are known to eat skunks.
 


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.

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31 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Brona / Apr 20 2013 3:02 am

    Those ears are amazing!! And I’m wishing I hadn’t seen that pellet pic just before eating my dinner 🙂

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  2. Mary / Apr 20 2013 4:59 am

    I learned so much from your post! Love the pic of mama and the owlets.

    Like

  3. Paulita / Apr 20 2013 6:12 am

    How lucky to see an owl and its nest. Those babies are so fuzzy. I think I saw an eagle as I was driving to work the other evening. I looked twice but then had to pay attention to the road. It was heading toward an old quarry that is surrounded by trees now. Here’s Mine

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    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 7:38 am

      I know what you mean! I almost ran off the road looking at a large bird soaring overhead. It was a just a hawk, but eagle sightings are becoming more frequent.

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  4. therelentlessreader / Apr 20 2013 7:03 am

    I didn’t know they were nest thieves 😉 Learn something new every day! Great photos 🙂

    Like

    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 7:36 am

      They take over a nest after it has been abandoned and add a few sticks and feathers and call it their own. They will also nest in old tree cavities, on buildings and artificial platforms.

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  5. BermudaOnion / Apr 20 2013 8:07 am

    Wow, I bet seeing that was amazing! It looks like our mama bird has abandoned the nest on our front porch. 😦 I sure hope she’s okay.

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    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 8:16 am

      That’s not a good sign, especially if she had already laid eggs.

      Like

  6. laurelrainsnow / Apr 20 2013 8:26 am

    The owls look ominous….but what a great shot! I can’t imagine seeing one close up and in the neighborhood park! Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.

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    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 8:33 am

      The Great Horned is a very formidable owl. They stand about 2 feet tall (63 cm) with a wingspan of up to 57 inches (145 cm). The entire time we were observing the nest she never moved more than an inch or two.

      Like

  7. Louise / Apr 20 2013 8:33 am

    I always learn so much from your Weekend Birding posts Leslie. What magnificent owls you have there. Fascinating to learn about their habits too. I’m so glad you included the pellet photo- even though it’s gross- it makes me very glad that’s not how we eat our dinner! I’d heard of pellets but never seen one.

    Like

    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 8:36 am

      I thought about making the pellet photo tiny so no one would lose their breakfast over it. But really it’s so fascinating I figured most people would want to see it. At least I hope they did!

      Like

  8. redladysreadingroom / Apr 20 2013 8:38 am

    I’ve never seen an owl nest so I found this fascinating! Loved seeing the mother and owlets and learning about the owls nesting habits. I’ve seen the owl pellets before as my son had a school project with them and found them disgusting but fascinating.

    Like

    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 9:55 am

      Up close the pellet looked like dryer lint with bones. Not as gross as I imagined it would be before I actually saw one in person.

      Like

  9. Beth Hoffman / Apr 20 2013 8:41 am

    How great that you got to see (and photograph) Great Horned Owls! It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen one, let alone owlets. Great shots!

    Like

    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 9:54 am

      This is a first for me. We had been watching these owls during the winter and hoping they would nest. We are going back on the golf course in a few weeks. By then the owlets might be out on the branches.

      Like

  10. irene / Apr 20 2013 9:36 am

    I love seeing the owl nest, they are adorable even if they are not so small. I’d love to move an Owl nest into my yard, we are plagued with skunks. I wonder if they have bad breath after eating skunk? Mother nature sure is wonderful.

    Like

    • Leslie / Apr 20 2013 9:49 am

      That was new information for me. I didn’t think any animal was brave enough to eat a skunk. Plus skunks are often rabid. The owls are welcome to stop by my neighborhood and eat skunks anytime.

      Like

  11. Arti / Apr 20 2013 10:25 am

    Thanks for all the info. Interesting to see the baby owls. I think your owl has longer ears as the one I saw… but they’re both Great-Horned. I’ve never seen an owl pellet before. A couple of days ago I saw the remains of a bird on a brush branch, and it was a nasty sight. You see, I’m so used to the beauty of birds and nature, not ready to see the matter of facts, the ‘wildness’ of their life.

    Like

  12. brokencookiesdontcount / Apr 20 2013 11:15 am

    I love this…especially the babies!

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  13. Suko / Apr 20 2013 12:12 pm

    I’m a real fan of owls, and love your pictures and narrative!

    Like

  14. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Apr 20 2013 12:44 pm

    wow…those ears are huge. great capture.

    Like

  15. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Apr 20 2013 1:41 pm

    Very neat that you got to see them! I’ve only seen an owl in the wild once, and it was a little one – I don’t know which breed, but it was full grown and still very small.

    Like

  16. Christine Harding / Apr 20 2013 2:44 pm

    Wonderful picture of a strange looking bird. My Snapshot is at http://goo.gl/DrAfs

    Like

  17. Melissa @ Melissa's Bookshelf / Apr 20 2013 2:53 pm

    Great pictures! That owl looked a bit angry, haha! Thanks for stopping by my snapshot post, too! 🙂

    Like

  18. Anne / Apr 20 2013 3:24 pm

    Wow. Just wow. What a rare treat!

    Like

  19. Nise' (Under the Boardwalk) / Apr 20 2013 7:03 pm

    Amazing photos. I would not know what I was looking at had I come across it, but now I know all about owl pellet.

    Like

  20. lmkazmierczak / Apr 21 2013 9:28 am

    That’s amazing they can eat a skunk! Informative blog this week♫ My SS: http://lmkazmierczak.blogspot.com/2013/04/valuable-junk.html

    Like

  21. WordsAndPeace / Apr 22 2013 8:14 pm

    stunning, so beautiful and with such great information, as usual. you are the BEST bird blogger EVER!

    Like

  22. MarthaE / Apr 26 2013 7:53 pm

    These are remarkable. WoW!

    Like

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