[Tweeters] A bad night for the baby owls

Kelly Cassidy lostriver at completebbs.com
Sun Apr 30 09:39:58 PDT 2006

Owls do not build nests.  Great Horned Owls usually nest in large nests
other birds have built the year before.  They prefer Red-tailed Hawk nests,
but will use smaller nests if the Red-tailed nest supply is low.  This year,
the Great Horned Owl pair in our yard chose a nest of barely adequate size
in the juniper clump near the driveway entry.  It was between 10 and 15 feet
off the ground.  The nest might have been an old magpie nest, but it looked
too small to even be that.  The junipers bear the brunt of the high west
winds we get out here.  
I had a bad feeling the owls had made a poor choice, but they have been
doing great.  There are two downy youngsters.  The area around the nest is
littered with owl droppings, small bones, owl pellets, and carcass parts.  A
blizzard of Barn Owl feather a couple weeks ago, a pair of Mallard wings
last week, Gray Partridge feathers, regularly appearing rabbit parts.  The
dog brought me a Ring-necked Pheasant drumstick with foot attached this
morning.  Every morning I go look for my favorite yard bird parts.
Last night, however, was a disaster.  The high winds blew the nest apart.
Both baby owls are still in the tree.  The larger one is probably large
enough to be okay, but the smaller one is still mostly downy white.  He (or
she) is clinging to a branch in the wind, which is still high this morning.
I guess if he's old enough that he won't fall out of the tree, he has a
Life is tough for a baby owl.  
Dr. Kelly Cassidy
Curator, Conner Vertebrate Museum
Washington State University, Pullman, WA
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