A Boatload of Babies

HNWR Owlet_9020 AJohn Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is where I volunteer and spend a lot of my time. 80 species of birds breed here, and the nesting season has begun. Our stars are a pair of Bald Eagles, but this year they are not to be outdone by the Great Horned Owls. There are two Owl nests this year, each with two chicks.

HNWR Owlets_9417 ACSBy the time we spotted these Owlets, they were big balls of fluff almost as big as their parents. Owls frequently use previously abandoned hawk nests, without wasting time on expensive renovations. In this case, it’s a downed tree trunk. Colleen said they look like they’re riding in a little wooden boat.

HNWR Owl_9232 AWith hungry mouths to feed, the usually nocturnal owls are more active during the day, and can often be spotted roosting in or near the nest. I’d never seen Great Horned Owls before, so this was a treat. Both sets of owlets have fledged in recent days, so they’re not in the nests, but they will remain nearby being cared for by their parents for a while longer.

FUN FACT: Part of the mating ritual requires the male Great Horned Owl to present the female with a small mammal like a mouse. If he doesn’t, it may indicate that there’s not enough food available to successfully raise a brood, and she won’t accept him. Obviously, they never heard Ogden Nash’s advice: “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker!”

3 HNWR Owl_7782 AC

3 thoughts on “A Boatload of Babies

      • I was wondering! Thanks! The second pic is my fave too – a friend calls them “piggyback” owls. Their eyes never left me the entire time I was watching them!

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