Great Horned Owls are among the earliest nesting birds in North America, and the pair nesting at a local park may one of the earliest in MN. This was the scene when I visited their nest box (provided by the park).
Two chicks, one slightly older and larger than the other (on the left) judging from the replacement of white downy fuzz on the face with browner contour feathers, peeped over the edge of their box at the line-up of us photographers 50 yards away.
Typically, Great Horned Owlets remain in their nest about 7 weeks, when they can move about the branches of their nest tree — and are called “branchlings”. Although their body contour feathers are well developed, they retain some of the downy insulation, so they still appear fuzzy. It will take another couple of weeks before their flight feathers are fully grown and they can fly (about 9-10 weeks of age).
Assuming the owlets in the nest box this year are 3-4 weeks old, they probably hatched in February during one of our extreme cold spells. But cold temperatures don’t seem to bother Great Horned Owls as long as they can find enough food — and this pair of adults is obviously good at that. Females have successfully incubated their eggs at temperatures as low as -30 F, but the chicks must be continually brooded for their first couple of weeks of life at temperatures like that, so the male must feed both the chicks and the female!