It's Baby Season!
The First babies of 2015 arrived at the Birds of Prey Foundation in late March. In past years we have received Great Horned Owl babies as early as the first week of March. Great Horned Owls can be very creative in their nesting habits. Many of these new parents-to-be may cause the local community great anxiety about where they nest and where their babies go once they fledge. It is helpful to learn about these owls, their nesting habits, when it is appropriote to intervene and when these owls should be left alone!
In mid February we started receiving calls from various concerned individuals, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers. All were worried about Great Horned Owl’s nesting in unusual spots around Colorado. One mother in particular was even trying to nest in a backyard flowerpot! To prevent this owl from nesting in an unsafe area, it was decided the flowerpot would be removed.This would ensure that the mother owl would nest elsewhere before she laid eggs.While this is an appropriate time to intervene, it is against the law to remove eggs or harass parents once eggs have been laid.
Great Horned Owls do not build their own nests. Instead, they take over abandoned nests built by other animal species (usually Red-tailed Hawks, other hawk species, crows, ravens, herons, or squirrels).They may also go in search of the perfect hollow tree to lay their eggs. Nests often consist of sticks and vary widely in size depending on which species originally built the nest. Great Horned Owls may line the nest with shreds of bark, leaves, trampled pellets, downy feathers plucked from their own breast or fur and feathers from other prey. In some areas they add no lining at all. Some Great Horned Owls have to get creative when it is time to lay eggs.They nest in abandoned buildings, in crooks of trees and the occasional planter box or flowerpot.
Be aware that this time of year is nesting season for Great Horned Owls. Be mindful and respect the area that they have chosen to nest in. Great Horned Owls usually lay between 2-4 eggs and incubate them for about 30 days. It is not uncommon for us to receive tiny nestlings or even eggs this time of year due to this owl’s unique nesting habits. If you are concerned about an owl’s choice of nest location, give us a call and we can discuss the situation with you.
Many of these owls that nest in creative places can cause great concern from the public, especially after the chicks have fledged. A baby on the ground is NOT always a reason to intervene. Parents will continue to care for their young on the ground and baby owls are exceptional climbers. Until they have learned to fly, the owlets will climb into near by trees! It is only when they become injured or fledge into unsafe areas, like busy roads, that we start to intervene. Sometimes people even think to bring us the eggs of owls that have nested in precarious places. For many reasons, we do not recommend this. Wild owls are much better at this process and if it is at all possible for an egg to be left in the wild we ask the public to do so and not intervene. The same goes for fledgling owls. Great Horned Owls are fantastic parents and much better at raising their chicks than we are.