Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last April I posted photos of red-tailed hawk chicks. This year, I’m sharing photos of great horned owl chicks. As you can see, these chicks are already very big – almost as big as their parents – which means they are probably getting ready to leave the nest soon.

Great horned owls are one of the earliest breeding raptors, sometimes laying eggs as early as late December or early January. The eggs hatch after about one month of incubation, and then the chicks generally start to wander from the nest onto nearby branches (which is why they are called “branchlings” at this stage) anywhere from 6 to 7 weeks of age, and start flying around at about 10 to 12 weeks.

Great horned owls generally don’t build their own nest, but rather take over an old nest from another bird species, such as a red-tailed hawk. In fact, this same nest last year was used by ravens which produced several chicks – but it looks like the great horned owls got to it first this year!

Notice that these chicks are wide awake during the day, despite the presumption that all owls are strictly nocturnal. While some owls are only active at night, great horned owls are known to be somewhat active and can even be seen flying around during the daytime, although they are most active and hunting at night. Stay tuned for possible additional photos of the branchlings moving away from the nest soon!

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