Great Horned Owls often nest in a high location, but this nest was unusually low and very visible, at the edge of a stand of Live Oak trees.
This type of owl is about 22 inches tall. It has large orange eye discs and tufts of feathers that resemble ears or horns.
Scroll down to see the owls and their owlets.
These owlets are almost 4 weeks old. They hatched on approximately 01-24-21, most likely a couple of days apart. The nest is a shallow cavity in a branch of a Live Oak tree. The adults chose this spot because it was conveniently padded with ferns and Spanish moss.
The two owlets are in the nest by themselves. When they are this age, the adult does not have to stay in the nest with them. The female is nearby in another tree, keeping an eye on them. The male adult is on a higher perch, watching over the family.
The male owl sits high in a tree, guarding the female and the babies. At night he will hunt for food and deliver it to the owlets. His voice is a low, “Hoo Hoo.” The female’s call is longer, with more syllables. It sounds like, "Who hoots for you? Who, Who?”
When they are young, the owls are not nocturnal. They spend their time observing their surroundings, eating often and taking frequent naps. The adults hunt during the night and keep a stash of food nearby so they can deliver food to the owlets whenever they cry for food. Their squeals sound like a squeaky iron gate.
She wards off predators such as hawks and eagles. Even though her daytime vision is not good, she is able to see well enough to detect a threat and shoot over to the nest to protect the owlets.
Baby 1, the older owlet, walks out on the branch as Baby 2 watches the adult above. This behavior is typical between 5 and 6 weeks of age. The owlets are not able to fly yet, so they venture out by walking.
When the owls are young, food is still delivered to the nest. Later the adults will bring it to wherever the owlets are perched. At almost 7 weeks, the babies still have their wooly head feathers. The orange eye discs have developed.
The emerging flight feathers are more noticeable on the older owlet on the left than on the younger one. Their bellies are still covered with fluff. At this age, they remain at or near the nest, and the adults still bring them food.
Baby 2 is catching up to Baby 1 in flapping and jumping abilities. Baby 1 has found a new perch on a higher limb of the nest tree.
Mom tells Baby 2, “Don’t let Baby 1 hog all the food. You have to get big and strong, too.”
At 7 to 8 weeks, Baby 1 is able to leave the nest, but it stays in the nest area. This fledgling can fly a short distance from branch to branch in the nest tree. The early stages of ear tufts are visible. Baby 2 is still in the nest.
Mom says, “Make sure you practice your flying. We’ll be taking a trip when you two are ready.”
At 8 to 9 weeks, both baby owls have fledged, but they still stay together for the most part. They flap and hop from branch to branch, sometimes to adjacent trees. There is no sign of sibling rivalry with these two.
This might be the fledgling’s first time out of the woods. It has seen the adults swoop to the ground and come back with a meal. But this evening when it lands, there isn’t any food waiting to be grabbed.
This is a new predicament for the fledgling. It has to take off from the ground instead of flying from tree to tree. Does this fledgling have the strength to do it? It crouches, ready to launch.
It’s a wobbly attempt, but Baby 1 makes it into the air, heading back to the woods.
Takeoff was a success. Now the challenge is getting enough elevation, and then sticking the landing. (The landing is the tricky part.)
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a success. Baby 1 landed on the trunk of a large oak tree. Baby 2 has been watching the brave trip to the ground, and the return.
To view more photos of the owls, click on the "Owl Fledglings" tab at the top.
All images on this website Copyright © 2023 J.A. Heintz - All rights reserved
Information on this website is from personal observation and from the following resources:
Copyright © 2023 HEICRON - All Rights Reserved. All images © 2023 J.A. Heintz
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