Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Point's Owlet!

Great Horned Owls start nesting in January and February and lay 2 to 4 dull white eggs in a borrowed nest of another raptor, such as a hawk or crow. Incubation lasts between 26 and 35 days, done by the mother, while the male feeds her and then the owlets for a couple of weeks after they have hatched. After the babies have their second set of down feathers, the male and female hunt and feed the babies together for up to 3 months, while the owlets grow very quickly and eat ravenously. They stay together as a loosely knit family through the summer, until autumn, when the juveniles disperse. The mated pair will remain in the same territory up to 8 years.

Here at the Point, a Great Horned Owl with nest and babies was reported over near Lake Lilly.  On the way, I spotted 2 birders and they led me to the special vantage point to get a glimpse. I came back in late afternoon, when the lighting was better, to take these photos:

I was surprised by the small nest size. Apparently, there had been 2 owlets, but now only one remains. The mother and baby can barely fit in the nest as it is. The owlet is covered in white fluffy down with a dark predominant beak. The mother is stoic and keeps a close watch on us.

Owlets start roaming onto nearby branches after 6-7 weeks even though they still are covered in down.  They are called "branchers" at this stage, but can't really fly until 9+ weeks. 

Here, the owlet tries out his quickly growing wings, teetering precariously on the edge of the nest, but  perhaps, almost ready to move beyond the nest. 

I stopped by again this morning for a quick peek and the owlet was tucked under the mother, shielded from the chilly wind, with only its tail visible. I guess, it decided to stay close for another day.


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