When Great Horned Owl eggs hatch, the downy owlets are the size of newborn chickens. Their mother broods them day and night. A few weeks later, the owlets can be left alone while both adults resume hunting at twilight. Great Horned Owl young remain in the nest for about six weeks, then climb out onto nearby branches. They begin taking short flights at seven weeks, and can fly well at 9-10 weeks.
Great Horned Owl Family, Part II
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Pair of Great Horned Owls hooting]
We often think of Spring as the nesting season for birds. But Great Horned Owls nest in winter, because young owls take a long time to grow up.
This pair occupies a large stick nest in a tall cottonwood, a nest that Red-tailed Hawks built last year.
The female Great Horned Owl — which outweighs the male by a third — [Sound of female Great Horned Owl] incubated the eggs for a full month, never leaving the nest. The male [Sound of male Great Horned Owl] hunted for both.
When the eggs hatched, the downy owlets were the size of newborn chickens. The male remained the sole provider for another two weeks, until the young put on a second set of down feathers.
Now, the young can be left alone while both adult Great Horned Owls resume hunting at twilight. From elevated perches, they plunge with silent wings onto prey below. They take mice, rabbits, and opossum, duck and crows — even skunks and young raccoons. [Great Horned Owl pair hooting]
The young owls will remain with their parents for several months. And because the cycle started in winter, the young will have an abundance of prey when they are finally on their own.
To see photos of Great Horned Owls, come to birdnote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
Sounds of the Great Horned Owl provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Hoots of the pair recorded by W.R. Fish; nestlings by
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org March 2012/2018 Narrator: Mary McCann
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