Monday, April 13, 2015

Great Horned Owl Babies Growing Fast

Great Horned Owls did their pair bonding last December and January and began laying eggs in their nests in February here in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area in Minnesota.

The babies hatched and have been growing fast.  This pair were able to sit together for the first time in a long time as the female left the babies alone in the warm sun for the first time yesterday.

At the well known nest in Silverwood Park the babies left the nest a couple of weeks ago, but this nest in an Edina park will still have the babies in the nest for a few days. 
 The female Great Horned Owl is quite protective and stays with the babies as they are small.  But the babies grow rapidly and it soon becomes crowded in what looks like an old squirrel nest. I took this picture on April 10.

Great Horned Owls usually don't do much construction for their nest, using an old crow or hawk nest, or an old squirrel nest. 

These nests often fall apart before the babies are ready to leave the nest, and the young owls have to hold onto branches or fall to the ground.  The parents are still very attentive and protect the babies wherever they end up.  
 The baby owls are curious but mostly lay flat on the nest and only a few white fluffy feathers can be seen most of the day.
 This mother owl sat on a branch a few feet from the nest yesterday.  This was the first time she wasn't in the nest with her two babies all day.

She would fly to a tree 100 feet away and then return to this branch several times.

Once about 20 crows came to harass her and I was surprised to watch her fly to the nest tree with the crows following her.

The babies must be too big for her to worry about crows injuring them.  After a few minutes the crows all flew away.
 The baby owls leave the nest as soon as they are agile enough to hop from branch to branch, and very soon from tree to tree with the help of their rapidly growing wing feathers.

This is one of the babies at the Silverwood Park nest that I took pictures of two weeks ago as it was hopping up a large branch moving away from the nest box. The babies owls are called "branchers" during these first days out of the nest.

The pair at the Edina Park did not get much time together as the male flys off in the picture below to distract some danger that the female can see as she looks up into the sky.

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