The Cooper’s Hawks nested in our woods again this year. They built their nest high up in one of the tall spruce trees (though it was probably the male who did most of the work.)
The Hawks are stealthy and quiet. We don’t even know they are around until the baby birds have fledged. Then the parents get very peevish if we venture too close to their home base.
The two ‘youngsters’ (pictured below) are still being fed by the adults. They are always hungry. Their calls for food are almost non stop all day long. The parents feed them medium-sized birds and small mammals.
Cooper’s Hawks are very agile, powerful birds that pursue prey in the forest. They are very adept at threading their way through tree branches at top speed.
Both birds are venturing out further and further and are becoming very good fliers.
In a few months they will head for warmer climates. They are generally short to medium distance migrants which means they might winter somewhere in the central United States.
The upside to having hawks as summer residents is that they keep the rodent population in check. The downside is that we don’t see many mid-sized birds in our woods… except a family of crows that nested in our woods too. I don’t like crows very much. They are so noisy and their ‘caw, caw, caw’ is not a pleasant sound.
On April 23 the Owlets were still in the nest, looking far less fluffy and much more feathery!
Their ‘ear’ tufts were more visible too. Owl experts don’t really know what the purpose is for these feathery tufts. They don’t have anything to do with how well the owl hears since an owl’s ears are on the side of the head, not the top!
The first owlet left the nest on April 25. Several alert neigbours reported seeing the young owl walking from one front yard to another!
I finally caught the ‘walking owl’ in action at dusk on April 27. The owlet was perched on a rock, then hopped down and continued it’s walkabout.
One parent owl was in a nearby palm tree hooting, while the second parent distributed the evening meal.
One owlet was still in the nest, maybe enjoying how roomy it’s quarters are now.
On April 28 the owlet in the nest was still looking down from it’s high perch.
The Adaptability of Great Horned Owls
Now that I’ve watched baby Great Horned Owls in both Alberta and Arizona, I realize there are differences in the behaviour of the owlets once they leave the nest. In Alberta, the owlets learned to fly from spruce branch to spruce branch. They didn’t spend time on the ground until much later when they were learning to hunt. The Arizona owlets are starting at ground level and will only become tree dwellers if they can hop/climb up something, or when their wings are strong enough to get them airborne!
Some interesting things I’ve found about Great Horned Owls.
– though an owl might dive at cats, dogs and people if they have a nest
in the area, it is unlikely they would take a dog or cat to eat. They
cannot lift much more than their own body weight, which is 2-3 pounds. Apparently it is urban legend that birds of prey hunt pets…
– an adult owl will have a wingspan of just under 4 feet. The female owl
will be bigger than the male.
The Great Horned Owl (that nested in the Palm Tree in our front yard) laid four eggs. One egg ‘escaped’ the nest, so didn’t hatch. Three owlets hatched, but one fell out of the nest when it was about 2 weeks old. I rescued it and gave it to a Raptor Center to raise.
The two remaining owlets are growing quickly. Feathers are replacing the fuzzy down. Watch the transition below:
The Drop Zone
The downside to having an owls nest in our front yard is the mess. You can see the accumulating owl droppings (at nest height) in the photo above. At ground level, there are more droppings, owl pellets (regurgitated bones, fur and feathers), and for some reason two dead rodents…
All photos were taken with a Canon Powershot SX50 HS camera. It has a single fixed superzoom lens. That means I can fill the photo with the owlet’s face while standing across the street.
Great Horned Owl Nest Timeline:
March 5 – mother owl is sitting on the nest. One egg has escaped the nest. (incubation time is 28-35 days.)
March 24 – broken egg found at base of tree. Owlets have hatched?
April 4 – first sighting of owlets, nearly 2 weeks after probable hatching.
April 7 – Owlet falls out of nest and is relocated to Raptor Center.
April 22 – Owlets starting to exercise wings. They move to the shady side of the tree during the heat of the afternoon.
The owlets might stay in the nest for about 6 weeks after hatching, though they could try to fly to nearby branches when about 5 weeks old. After they have left the nest, they may also be seen walking around on the ground for awhile before they can fly. The parents will continue to feed them for some time.
In my previous post about the Great Horned Owl nest in our palm tree, I introduced the First Owlet.
Over the next few days we saw at least two more baby birds.
In the photo above there are two owlets to the right of the unhatched egg, and one just above the egg. I don’t think there are more than that, but time will tell!
In this photo, one owlet settles in to it’s temporary home in an Amazon Prime cardboard box lined with a fluffy white towel. The baby bird fell out of the nest. I found it sitting on the road near the bottom of the palm tree. It could not walk or hop very far without tipping over.
There was no way I could get the baby back into the nest and it was much too young to live without the warmth and care of the mother owl. I didn’t know how long the bird had been on the ground, but I knew there were many predators nearby. So I donned my trusty leather gardening gloves, quickly found the box, took a deep breathe – and gently guided the bird into a safer place.
I’m not sure whose heart was beating faster now – the bird’s or mine! For such a small bundle, it had a big beak and long sharp talons – and it was not happy with me at all! We both calmed down once the owlet was safely in the box and I had added a fluffy towel so the bird had something to hold onto. I closed the flaps on the box (many thanks to the box maker because when the flaps are closed there is a large enough gap to allow good ventilation.)
Several hours later The Car Guy and I delivered the bird to the Arizona Wild at Heart rescue center. An experienced staff member checked the baby for broken bones, gave it a rehydration needle, then explained their baby raptor program to us.
They will care for the owlet in their ‘wild fostering’ program. The baby will be raised by another Great Horned Owl – a foster parent – that will feed it, teach it to avoid humans and predators, how to communicate and hunt. The baby will not imprint on people and as long as it grows up to be a healthy bird, it will be released into the wild when it is mature enough.
I sure know a lot more about baby owls now (they really don’t smell that great when they have been in a box for a short while…) So, although it is exciting to have a nest of baby birds nearby, sometimes it comes with the obligation to make sure that ‘No bird is left behind’.
The Great Horned Owl that is nesting in a palm tree in our yard (in Arizona) has successfully ‘hatched’ at least one owlet.
The photo above shows Mother Owl with the small white bundle of feathers that is the owlet. Near the bottom centre of the photo is the egg that escaped from the nest.
This photo shows the baby more clearly. The round black area is the eye. We think the owlet is almost 2 weeks old now.
This photo shows the owlet’s already impressive beak!
The Arizona Owl Family:
Mother owl on nest
The male owl in a tree near the nest
The Alberta Owl Family:
In 2018 we watched what we thought was a once in a lifetime event! A Great Horned Owl nested in a tree in our front yard. We first saw the three owlets when they had left the nest and were venturing out onto a branch each day as they prepared to fly for the first time.
Triplets before fledging
Mom and one of the owlets
Two of the owlets
One of the owlets after fledging
The Triplets – almost as big as the parents, but still being fed by their parents!
We are eagerly waiting for the arrival of baby Great Horned Owls. The parental units have nested in a Palm Tree in our front yard. (Snooze All Day, Hoot All Night). Sadly, one of the owl eggs escaped from the nest.
We sure hope the owl laid more than one egg! The escaped egg will never take flight!
Nature recognized that the Egg was eggsactly the type of ineggspensive, eggstremely simple container needed for many housing situations. With an eggsternal shell that would survive eggstreme conditions (barring eggsplosions), the egg was an eggsellent choice where eggsessive sharp edges were undesirable for the eggspectant mother when it was time to eggspell it.
– Margy –
There has been a Great Horned Owl (or maybe owls, plural) in our Arizona yard for several weeks now. It (or they) have been hooting almost every night. Sometimes one sits on the top of the chimney – then they sound like they are in the house!
Several days ago I heard a few short hoots as I was sitting on my back deck. I traced the sound to the large old Willow Acacia tree. Initially the owls eyes were closed, but as I slowly circled one side of the tree to take some photos, the owls eyes opened – then closed again. Maybe it was responding to the crunching noise I was making on the gravel that is our yard, or maybe it was looking at the hummingbirds that were pestering it.
At night, we often hear an owl in front of our house too, so yesterday I inspected our Palm Tree more carefully. To the naked eye, it was hard to tell whether an owl was nestled in a notch made by the stumps of palm fronds. I had no problem seeing the owl once I had my camera with the zoom lens!
I’m hopeful that this is a nest! If so, we should be here in Arizona long enough to see the owlets. If that is the case, then our ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to watch baby horned owls grow up will be a ‘twice in a lifetime’ event! (My Alberta Great Horned Owl is at Owl Family.)
They will usually start their nesting behavior around late December to early January in Arizona…Their clutch size will range anywhere from 1-6 eggs… incubation period of about 28 – 35 days… The hatching of the eggs will typically happen in mid to late February through March. Both parents will bring the young owlets food in the nest, and both parents will tend to the young for the first several months of life.
– Arizona Game and Fish –
Our property was also home to a Great Horned Owl family that nested in a large spruce tree on the edge of our driveway.
I also did 138 Wild-life stories that document all the birds, bugs and animals I saw and 88 posts about Plants.
On the Humour front, I did 95 posts of funny Quotations and 1000 posts that had at least one moment of happiness embedded in the verbiage.
I’ve posted 45 Craft Projects. The interior decor of the Red House reminds me of the front of the family fridge when there were school age kids in our house: a bunch of crafts that sometimes only a ‘mother’ can love…
“Into each life a little rain must fall.”
In 2012, The Car Guy was in a bad motorcycle accident. Man and bike both recovered, though the Harley looked like new after the restoration and The Car Guy – not so much.
In 2013 there was a lot of rain. Our entire Cabin Community was destroyed. Though we weren’t able the save much from our cabin, the Car Guy did manage to salvage our old lawnmower!
My review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Covid-19. I did about 40 posts about the virus, none of which went viral…
2, 4, 6, 8… Who Needs to Isolate?
My blogging life started in November 2009 during the peak of the second wave of the novel virus H1N1pdm09 pandemic. It was also known as the ‘Swine Flu’. The Cornell Daily Sun joked about the pig connection with the headline: ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It, And I Feel Swine…’
I’ve also lived through two other relatively serious pandemics – two Avian flus: the Asian flu of 1957-1958 and the Hong Kong Flu of 1968-1970 . How did all three of these pandemics compare to Covid-19? No one will ever really know. Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been tracked differently and the collateral damage from lock downs, reduction in non-covid medical treatment and school closures will be difficult to measure.
Is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a Deeply Offensive Song about Climate Change Denialism?
My blogging ‘career’ also coincided with COP15 (Conference of the Parties) which was held in Copenhagen in late 2009. COP26 (the 2021 version) is in full swing in Glasgow. 21,000 delegates, 13,000 observers and 3,000 members of the media will talk about how to cut emissions… do they understand the irony?
I’ll end this retrospective with this:
My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.
― Sebastyne Young –
A dark brown shape, a jumble of wings and talons. Flying feathers, uprooted autumn leaves, a flurry of snow. When the ‘dust’ cleared, I realized it was a rather large hawk, and it was expertly dissecting a newly caught ‘something’ for lunch.
In all the photos you can see some of ‘the something’ on the bird’s beak. When I visited the location after the hawk had left, I could see that the kill was a bird.
Many thanks to my go-to person for bird identification, Murray. My photos made identification difficult (shooting through a window on a dreary dull day), but he was reasonably confident this it was a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk. (Dark morph means that the pigment has an alteration that makes the feathers darker than the common colors usually seen. There are light morphs too. A study on morphs suggests that color polymorphism is due to different morphs being better adapted to different light conditions.)
The Feather Files Name: Red-tailed Hawk – dark-morph Species: Buteo jamaicensis Native to and Migration: Resident or short-distance migrant. Most birds from Alaska, Canada, and the northern Great Plains fly south for a few months in winter, remaining in North America. Date Seen: October 21, 2020 Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada Notes: Red-tailed Hawks are large birds with very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. They can have a wingspan of 45-52 inches (114-133 cm). The female will be slightly larger in length and weight. Red-tailed Hawks have extremely variable plumage,