Great Horned Owlet Survives a Fall

This Great Horned Owlet gives up a smooth horizontal limb for a steep one covered in twigs. Why?

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Great Horned Owlet: Nearly Ready to Leave the Nest

The appendages on the sides of the Great Horned Owlet changed from downy elbows to magnificent wings in just nine days. And he’s learning as fast as he’s growing.

(YouTube is messing with me by not putting a photo from the film on this one, but believe me, the movie plays and the owl has impressive wings.)

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For an hour or more, I wondered about my sanity. I went to the woods yesterday afternoon to film the Great Horned Owls. I saw the male (he hooted, so that I knew it was him) and saw him fly further into the woods. A minute later I saw another owl fly in that direction, and soon afterwards I heard him screech as he did the day I filmed him copulating with her. So I trained the camera on the Sycamore where they nest hoping to catch some film of her returning–in case they do have eggs in there that she’s incubating. Then … WHAT? I saw movement in the hole. I was so excited: it’s a baby, I thought! But no. I caught a glimpse of it. That was no baby. It had the tufts of feathers that give it the name horned, and it wasn’t downy. That was an adult owl. I thought, wait. Didn’t I just see her fly several hundred yards away? Didn’t I just hear them mating? Or did I dream that? What I didn’t dream was the adult owl in the nesting site. That, I have on film. I waited another half hour. The bird in the hole never poked its head up again, and the female didn’t return.
When I got inside, I called the neighbors who live nearest to that Sycamore. Mark told me that he has seen three adults. Oh. Suppose last year’s owlet has stuck around. Suppose it was a female and she’s helping incubate the eggs, while Momma Owl goes off to, shall we say, keep the pair bond strong. That’s several suppositions, but none of them are a far stretch.
When I filmed the owls mating on January 27th, I supposed they didn’t already have eggs. I supposed that owls agree with the ancient popes, that sex is for reproduction and that they wouldn’t copulate after the eggs are laid. Seemed like a reasonable supposition since I couldn’t find any information either way on the internet. But then I learned that Barn Owls do mate after the eggs are laid, so why not Great Horned Owls too?
There’s too much supposing and not enough knowing going on to suit me, but I will be down in those woods almost every afternoon until I figure out what’s really happening.

Great Horned Owlet: Fresh from the Nest

Bird Movies by Jo,

We’ve had a pair of Great Horned Owls nesting in the woods behind our house for the last seven years. Last winter, they had one owlet, and on his first day out of the nest, I filmed him. When he tests those powerful wings, I can almost feel the potential of flight in my own arms. Wouldn’t you love to be him for an hour and REALLY feel your wings spread?

The tree that had their nest was destroyed last May 31st in a tornado, but we’ve been hearing the pair calling to each other every night since they returned in late August. They coo. The male’s call is slower and deeper; the female’s is higher pitched and faster, a little more fussbudgety. Near the nest, the tall cedars that they roosted in every day were also destroyed by the tornado. The nursery is gone and so is Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom. So we wondered if they would look for a different territory. Apparently not. It’s 7:45 p.m., and I’m listening to them as I type. They’ll mate in January, and the young will be born in late February or early March.

You can see all my films on my YouTube channel: Jo Alwood.