Great Horned Owls were actively courting and hooting in January, and I made several excursions into the backyard to find their nest (I never did find it), an activity I dubbed “owling“. After reading several recent reports of active nests of Great Horned Owls with cute, fuzzy chicks, I decided to try to photograph them myself.
The owlets are probably about a month old by now, are losing their fuzz and acquiring real feathers. Their wings are also fully feathered although the flight feathers are short and stubby, compared to the adults. One of the other photographers watching the nest told me where the parents usually perch, so I went off into the forest to look for them.
These birds are one of the largest bodied owl species in North America (only the Snowy Owl is heavier), but what is truly impressive about them are their feet, with widespread, sharp talons that have incredible grasping power. A 3 pound (1.5 kg) Great Horned Owl can carry off an adult skunk, but they will feast on a wide variety of prey from mouse or small bird sized items to rabbit and grouse size, even killing other raptors for food.
I walked around looking for the male of this pair, which I was told was mostly gray, but never found him. However, returning to the female’s tree, I spotted a visitor there perched right next to her.