A New Neighbor

February 18, 2009

There’s a Great-horned Owl nest near our house.  You have to walk a short distance to see it — maybe half a mile.  But then you look into an expanse of forest, find the great mass of branches and such in the fork of a large, straight oak tree, and there’s the female, her head visible above the edge of the nest, her tufts — the so-called horns — framed against the sky.  Owls nest earlier than most birds.  Great-horneds nest earlier than most owls.  She’s probably already incubating eggs.  She might even be caring for young.

For those of you who don’t know, Great-horned Owls are probably the most formidable avian hunters in North America.  They’ve been known to take possum, raccoon, skunk, rabbits, domestic cats, other species of owl, Red-tailed Hawks (which aren’t exactly wimpy birds), even Great-blue Herons.  If you’re ever at a natural history museum, check out the Great-horned specimens.  Look at the size of the birds, particularly the females (among birds of prey, the females are almost always the larger of the pair).  Then look at the size of their talons.  They look like they belong on a bobcat….

And this pair is nesting around the corner.  Very cool.

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